Health Canada recognizes gender is an important determinant of health. Men and women’s experiencing of caregiving, their social relationships, life expectations and economic circumstances are all shaped by gender. Gender influences access to services, interaction within health care systems, and expectations around caregiving.
In our society, women have traditionally provided the majority of care. While this is starting to change, women continue to spend more time caregiving (Stobert & Cranswick, 2004). Canadian statistics indicate that female caregivers provide most of the personal care where male caregivers were responsible for transportation assistance and home maintenance (Williams, 2004). These, among other studies, continue to highlight that women are significantly likely to provide more time in providing physical care and emotional support (Mathowetz & Stolkier, 2005).
Depending on the caregiving context, gender differences can be small or large. For example, one study found that caregiving sons experienced more family conflict than caregiving daughters if there was a high level of care recipient impairment (Kwak, Ingersoll-Dayton & Kim, 2012). Other research found that women, regardless of the family relationship to the care recipient, continue to carry the majority burden of care, take on the most challenging caregiving tasks and therefore are more likely than men to suffer from extreme stress due to caregiving (National Alliance for Caregiving, 2009; Raschick & Intersoll-Dayton, 2004).
Increasingly, gender-based analysis is used by policy and program planners to better understand the impact of gender on the caregiving experience. Gender-based analysis challenges that women and men are affected in the same way by policies, programs and legislation, and requires thought as to how to reduce disadvantage through creating more equitable, inclusive options.