Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
IDROVO, Álvaro J. and CASIQUE, Irene. Women's empowerment and life expectancy at birth in Mexico. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2006, vol.20, n.1, pp. 29-38. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892006000700004.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of women's empowerment (WE) on life expectancy at birth (LEB) in the federative states of Mexico and to compare the results of measuring WE with various compound indicators that reflect, to a greater or lesser degree, an individual or population focus. METHODS: This was an ecological study conducted in Mexico's 32 federative states. We estimated the correlations between overall and sex-specific LEB on the one hand, and a measure of gender empowerment (MGE), the index of women's ability to make decisions within the household (WADH), the index of women's autonomy (IWA), income inequality, certain aspects of the physical environment, the proportion of the population who spoke an indigenous language, and the net migratory rate on the other. By using robust regressions, we studied the effect on LEB of MGE, IWA, and WADH, after mutually adjusting for other independent variables. RESULTS: A very strong inverse correlation (-0.93) was found between overall LEB and factors of the physical environment linked to population vulnerability and biodiversity. Significant direct and inverse correlations were also found between LEB on the one hand and WADH, IWA, net migratory rate, the percentage of the population that spoke an indigenous language, and the Gini coefficient on the other. Multiple robust regressions showed inverse associations between MGE and LEB in women (b: -1.44; 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: -2.71 to -0.17). WAI was positively associated with LEB in men (b: 0.88; 95% CI: 0.01 to 1.75) and women (b: 0.66; 95% CI: 0.03 to 1.30). CONCLUSION: The use of MGE as a surrogate for WE failed to reveal a positive effect of WE on LEB in Mexico. It is necessary to review the components that make up MGE and the relevance of using such a measure in different contexts. WAI showed a greater association with LEB and its effect was greater among men. This indicator made it possible to measure WE in Mexico and its use is recommended, as long as there are no other indicators available for capturing more effectively all the components that affect WE.
Keywords : Life expectancy; health status indicators; women's rights; Mexico.