23/07/2012 01:20 (299 Day 23:06 minutes ago)
The FINANCIAL -- Last week we discussed Georgia’s general physical fitness. As it turned out, Georgians are less likely than their neighbors to claim that climbing stairs or walking a kilometer is easy.
Physical fitness is closely related to most aspects of physical health, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, so you would expect Georgians to be relatively less healthy by these measures as well. This week we will see that Georgians do believe themselves to be less healthy, but are in fact average by regional standards.
As with before, this week’s data comes from the Health in Times of Transition poll conducted by Georgian Opinion Research Business International and its colleagues in 8 countries in East Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Caucuses. We asked each respondent to rank their overall health subjectively on a 5 point scale ranging from “very good” to “very bad.” Only 25% of Georgians felt they had good or very good health, compared to the country average of 40%.
However, we also asked whether the respondent had been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol by a doctor, both conditions strongly linked to lack of exercise. Here we discover that Georgians may not be as comparably unhealthy as they think they are. Fewer respondents in Georgia had been diagnosed with either condition than in Moldova, Belarus, Russia, or Ukraine , despite having the poorest subjective health.
Elderly Women -- It is not surprising that in each country polled, age was very closely linked to health; older respondents were far more likely to have been diagnosed with one of these conditions and far less optimistic about their health. However, one demographic variation which may seem surprising is between men and women: females seem to be far less healthy than men in every country.
Women typically live longer than men. While the difference in life expectancy may vary from place to place, this is a near universal rule. To explain this gap, you may have expected that women are generally healthier than men, less prone to disease and health conditions. This data does not seem to support this explanation; more women were diagnosed with high blood pressure and cholesterol in every single country, and fewer women claimed to have good health.
It may also be the case that this statistical gap is deceptive, being explained away by women living longer. If women live longer, the average woman should be older and more prone to health problems. In Georgia, the median age for men is 36.6 and women is 41.6*, which should skew women as a population toward unhealthiness. However, when we control for this difference by viewing each gender by age, we see that even within each age group, women are more prone to high blood pressure and rate their health worse.
Bullheaded Men? -- This apparent contradiction of unhealthy women who are longer lived may be explained in another way. Some of us may have experience with the stereotypical grandparents: grandfather doesn’t feel well but refuses to go to the hospital, despite grandmothers urging. Could it be that men appear healthier because they simply haven’t been diagnosed with conditions they have? Perhaps women believe themselves less healthy because they are being more realistic.
This hypothesis is harder to test with statistical analysis, but there was one question included in the study which can add to the discussion: we asked respondents whether they believed regular visits to the doctor were important to maintaining good health. While 82% of men did agree with the statement, a greater 91% of women believed it to be true.
Whatever the case, these data suggest that either Georgians are under-diagnosed, or are actually healthier than they believe.
The respondents’ median ages for this poll were 43.6 for men and 46.1 for women. This difference from the CIA fact book’s numbers is explained by the exclusion of those 17 and younger.
This study was conducted in 8 countries and included 16,200 respondents (2,200 Georgians). Surveys of this kind have a margin of error of around 3%, depending on specific populations discussed.