Gender differentials in tuberculosis: the role of socio-economic and cultural factors

01 Oct 1996
Respiratory topics
  • Disease management
  • Diagnosis
  • Gender
Type of resource
Peer-reviewed article
Hudelson P


This paper reviews current knowledge about the role that socio-economic and cultural factors play in determining gender differentials in tuberculosis (TB) and tuberculosis control. The studies reviewed suggest that socio-economic and cultural factors may be important in two ways: first, they may play a role in determining overall gender differences in rates of infection and progression to disease, and second, they may lead to gender differentials in barriers to detection and successful treatment of TB. Both have implications for successful TB control programmes. The literature reviewed in this paper suggests the following: Gender differentials in social and economic roles and activities may lead to differential exposure to tuberculosis bacilli; The general health/nutritional status of TB-infected persons affects their rate of progression to disease. In areas where women's health is worse than men's (especially in terms of nutrition and human immunodeficiency virus status), women's risk of disease may be increased; A number of studies suggest that responses to illness differ in women and men, and that barriers to early detection and treatment of TB vary (and are probably greater) for women than for men. Gender differences also exist in rates of compliance with treatment; The fear and stigma associated with TB seems to have a greater impact on women than on men, often placing them in an economically or socially precarious position. Because the health and welfare of children is closely linked to that of their mothers, TB in women can have serious repercussions for families and households. The review points to the many gaps that exist in our knowledge and understanding of gender differentials in TB and TB control, and argues for increased efforts to identify and address gender differentials in the control of TB.