PLoS One. 2023 Jan 23;18(1):e0280887. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280887. eCollection 2023.
BACKGROUND: Despite the progress in achieving gender equality to a certain extent, women are found to be more susceptible to health disadvantages compared to men in the older ages. However, research in the Indian context has mainly remained restricted to subjective health that heavily depends on the individual’s perception, which may affect the validity of results. This study addresses this gap by complementing the investigation of the gender differentials in self-reported health outcomes (mobility and functional limitations) with that of objectively measured health status (hand-grip strength and static balance) among the older population of India. Besides, there is a dearth of literature that considers financial empowerment in explaining the gender differentials in health. Women’s ability to participate in household decision-making, especially for important matters like major purchases, including property, indicates their empowerment status. Furthermore, the ability to extend financial support can be considered an important ‘non-altruistic’ driver for kins to care for older adults, indirectly affecting their health and well-being. Thus, the present paper explores the influence of financial empowerment on gender differentials in poor health outcomes.
METHODS: Using the Longitudinal Aging Study in India, Wave-1 (2017-18), six logistic regression models have been specified to capture the adjusted association between gender and poor health outcomes. The first three models successively control for the demographic and social support factors; socioeconomic factors and pre-existing health conditions; and financial empowerment indicators. The last three models investigate the interactions between gender and marital status, living arrangement and involvement in financial decisions, respectively.
RESULTS: The findings reveal that women tend to be more perceptive about their physical discomfort than men and reported a higher prevalence of poor subjective health. In terms of objectively measured health status, older men had a higher prevalence of low hand-grip strength but a lower prevalence of poor balance. Gender demonstrated a strong, adjusted association with poor health outcomes among older adults. However, the magnitude of gender difference either shrunk considerably or became statistically insignificant for all the poor health outcomes after controlling the effect of indicators of financial empowerment. Further, the interaction between gender and involvement in financial matters demonstrated a stronger effect for men in reversing poor subjective health.
CONCLUSION: The study reinforced the positive effect of financial empowerment in mitigating gender disparity in health among older adults.