Are there gender-related differences in young people’s health status and behaviours?

There are differences in mental health and risk-taking behaviours among young women and young men in Ontario. The 2009 OSDUHS study found that among grade 7 to 12 students:

  • more males than females reported externalizing behaviours such as fighting at school
  • females were significantly more likely to rate their mental health as poor. More reported low self-esteem, negative body image, thinking about suicide, depressive symptoms, and elevated psychological distress.

While the 2011 OSDUHS study found similar rates of substance use among male and female students, it also revealed gender differences. Male students are more likely to use over-the-counter cough/cold medication, smokeless tobacco, salvia divinorum, mushrooms/mescaline, jimson weed, LSD, and ketamin. Female students were more likely to use stimulants non-medically and any prescription drug non-medically.

While biology accounts for some these differences, socially constructed norms, expectations and beliefs about the roles, relations and value of girls and boys, women and men have important effects on young people’s health and well-being.