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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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June 02, 2005

Women's Health vs. Men's Health

“Women often receive scandalously little attention in health research,” begins a P-I editorial today. Perhaps. But let's also admit that the health concerns of men get scandalously little attention in daily newspapers compared with the health concerns of women.

The publicly available search engine on the Seattle P-I, which goes back to 1999, lists 167 stories containing the phrase “women’s health.” There are stories about smoking (the editorial topic today), abortion, breast implants, alcohol, cancer, contraception, libido, hormone replacement, child marriage—on and on. In the same period, the P-I had 19 stories with the phrase “men’s health.”

Women’s share of the P-I’s stories: 90 percent.

Here at the Times, I did a search of the past five years. We have more pages than the P-I, and we have the Sunday paper, so our count of stories is higher, but the proportion is almost the same: 313 stories that mention “women’s health” and 48 that mention “men’s health.”

Women’s share of the Times’ stories: 87 percent.

It’s even worse than that, because if you look at the stories about men’s health, many of them are not about that at all. At the Times, all of the stories that contain the phrase, “men’s health” this year (May 9, Jan. 26, Jan. 23, Jan. 2) are references to the magazine Men’s Health. The May 9 story was about the city of Detroit proposing a tax on fast food. The Jan. 2 story was a feature on a magazine called Modern Drunkard. You have to go back to Dec. 26, 2004—a story about the heat from laptop computers and male sperm count—to find “men’s health” in a story about men’s health.

Now, if women had worse health than men, that would explain this distinctive focus. But women live, on average, six or seven years longer than men do. Women outlive men in every country in the world except for the poorest and most medically backward.

If I were into victimhood, I’d whine about the newspapers “discriminating” in their health coverage in favor of women and against men. Obviously they do, and part of it is the influence of feminism among the women who work there. But there are other reasons. Most stories about health are in the feature section—the part of the paper that used to be called the “women’s section” and is still targeted more toward women. But probably the most fundamental reason is that women are more concerned about their health than men are. There is also more political controversy about it, particularly about abortion.

The total effect is still quite striking: Stories mentioning the term “women’s health” outnumber stories mentioning “men’s health” by nine to one.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at June 2, 2005 11:35 AM



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