Gender inequality has never done anyone any good. A recent report shows that women of gender-imbalanced countries tend to lose out on cognitive ability as they grow old. A survey leading to the report showed that women of Northern European countries were found to perform far better than men on the memory test while that of Southern European countries were found to lacking in comparison with men.

“Women living in gender-equal countries have better cognitive test scores later in life than women living in gender-unequal societies”

“This observation triggered our curiosity to try to understand what could cause such variations across countries,” said Eric Bonsang of Paris Dauphine University in France, Indian Express reported. “This research is a first attempt to shed light on important, but understudied, adverse consequences of gender inequality on women’s health in later life,” said Bonsang. “It shows that women living in gender-equal countries have better cognitive test scores later in life than women living in gender-unequal societies,” he said.

“Moreover, in countries that became more gender-equal over time, women’s cognitive performance improved relative to men’s,” he added.

While looking at the parameters leading to the report, the researchers speculated that apart from economic and socio-economic factors, socio-cultural factors such as attitudes about gender roles might also play a crucial role in the difference of cognitive abilities. They generated a hypothesis which says a society that is heavily based on patriarchal norms and gives its women lesser opportunities in terms of education and employment leads to having women with lower cognitive abilities than its men of the same age group.

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The survey took place in over 27 countries and covered people in the age group of 50-93 years. And to have a deeper knowledge about how gender affects cognitive ability, researchers gauged participants’ self-reported agreement with a statement, “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.”

The compiled data found a huge amount of variation in terms of difference in countries and cultural differences. Countries like Sweden — with a higher amount of gender equality — had women outperforming men. While those from conventionally gender-biased countries like Ghana is where male advantage won over and women showed lower cognitive ability as compared to men.

In a nutshell, the study stated that women living in countries that are still deeply buried in traditional roles for women are likely to have women lagging behind men in terms of cognitive ability.

“These findings reinforce the need for policies aiming at reducing gender inequalities as we show that consequences go beyond the labour market and income inequalities,” said Bonsang.

“It also shows how important it is to consider seemingly intangible influences, such as cultural attitudes and values, when trying to understand cognitive ageing,” he added.

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