Gender and Death

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All people die, men and women alike, but there are some interesting differences in how men and women approach death and dying. In the past, men and women had different experiences with the dying process. Historically men experienced death by seeking it out or confronting it in a predominantly male context. Men were more likely to be employed in hazardous occupations such as mining, to be engaged in military combat, or to pursue dangerous lifestyles. Women encountered death at home, by caring for seriously ill family members, preparing the dead, and comforting the bereaved.

Currently most Americans die in an institutional setting, with nearly one in five older adults dying in a nursing home, and many more die in a hospital than at home. Death in late life is often the result of a decision to halt futile or unwanted medical treatment after a period of chronic illness and dependency. Whereas the circumstances of death may be similar for men and women, the response to one's own terminal illness, socially constructed attitudes toward death, the experience of caring for dying people, and the response to loss, grief, and bereavement are likely to be quite different for men and women. This entry explores differences in life expectancy and primary causes of death between men and women, how gender might affect one's desire for a hastened death through suicide or physician-assisted suicide, and gender differences in grief and bereavement.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Gender and Death, in C.D. Bryant & D.L. Peck (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Death and the Human Experience, p. 505-508