Women's Health Project

Women's Health and Poverty

Women's Health Project: Fact Sheets

  • A disproportionate share of the burden of poverty rests on women's shoulders, and undermines their health.

  • 70% of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty are female.

  • Iron deficiency anemia, which is a direct result of malnutrition and poverty, affects double the number of women compared to men.

  • Half a million women die unnecessarily from pregnancy-related complications each year, the causes of which are exacerbated by issues of poverty and remoteness.

  • On average, women are paid 30-40% less than men for comparable work, which makes it even more difficult for women to overcome poverty than men.

  • Socioeconomic change in many parts of the world causes loss of jobs and roles for men. Women are increasingly becoming breadwinners in addition to their domestic and caring roles; but as their earnings are likely to be lower, and child care often suffers, patterns of poverty are easily perpetuated.

  • For the poor and near-poor of both sexes, sickness is a catastrophe which can lead to economic ruin.

  • Where traditional medicine or healers are available, many women choose these systems first for reasons of cost, convenience, and comfort. Often, these methods do not work and can lead to further health complications.

  • Poor families tend to be larger than richer ones, which increases the reproductive and caring burden on women. Adolescent pregnancy is high in poor families.

  • Poverty is a significant factor behind stress and depression in women, with domestic violence a frequent contributing factor.

All information was obtained from the Gender, Health and Poverty fact sheet, World Health Organization.

Posted Sept. 10, 2002