Archive: Gabriel Wikström, Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport

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Gender equality in health

Avoidable health inequalities will be eliminated in a generation. The long-term goal is to eliminate the disparities between women’s and men’s sick leave, while reducing sick leave rates in general to a low and stable level. Men’s violence against women must stop.

A team of women are rowing
The Government is investing in sport and expects the sports movement, at all levels, to redouble its efforts to achieve gender equality in sports to give those who are actively involved the same opportunities to realise their interest in participating, regardless of gender. Photo: Johnér

Current challenge

Sick leave

Sick leave in Sweden, as in many other countries, exhibits a considerable bias in its gender distribution. Women are off sick to a far greater extent than men; two out of three people on sick leave are women. This is a historic pattern that has persisted over time.

Psychiatric diagnoses are now the most common cause of sick leave and are increasing among both women and men; however, the increase is greater among women.

Mental ill health

The risk of a young woman attempting to take her own life is three times as high as the risk of a young man doing so. Self-reported mental and somatic problems are increasing, particularly among girls aged 13 to 15. In addition, the difference between girls’ and boys’ perceived health increases with age.

Men’s violence against women

Many women are still subjected to abuse. In 2014, a total of 28 200 cases of abuse of women were reported to the police. This is an increase of 5 per cent compared with 2013. The number of reported rapes increased by 13 per cent between 2013 and 2014, to 6 620 reported offences. Around 17 women are killed each year by a man they have or have had a close relationship with.

HeForShe goals

Avoidable health inequalities will be eliminated in a generation. The long-term goal is to eliminate the disparities between women’s and men’s sick leave, while reducing sick leave rates in general to a low and stable level. Men’s violence against women must stop.

HeForShe initiatives

  • The Government has appointed a national commission for health equity. Consistent attention will be given to gender health disparities in this work.
  • To respond to women’s higher sick leave rates, all relevant stakeholders in society need to be mobilised. This includes public authorities, employers, and health and medical care, as well as measures for women’s work environment.
  • The Government is considering a future long-term initiative to strengthen preventive work in the area of mental health and improve early action for young people suffering from mental health problems.
  • The Government is investing in sport and expects the sports movement, at all levels, to redouble its efforts to achieve gender equality in sports to give those who are actively involved the same opportunities to realise their interest in participating, regardless of gender.
  • A national strategy will be drawn up for work on men’s violence against women. The Government will strengthen its support to women’s shelters that support and protect women subjected to violence. The rape legislation will be reviewed so that more sexual offences are cleared up. Sentences for aggravated sexual offences will be made tougher. More will be done to promote increased participation by men in these efforts to promote change. The Government has extended support to a national telephone line which people, primarily men, who risk committing sexual assaults can call for advice and assistance in obtaining treatment. Work will be stepped up on changing gender stereotypes surrounding masculinity, violence and destructive masculine behaviour.