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Health and Gender: Quantifying the Unquantifiable

Gender, Women’s Health Care Concerns and Other Social Factors in Health and Health Care

ISBN: 978-1-78756-176-2, eISBN: 978-1-78756-175-5

Publication date: 18 September 2018



The measurement of gender in health research often consists of the substitution of the word “gender” in a question that is really asking about sex (physiological characteristics). When gender roles and expressions are actually measured it is normally with a tool such as the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI), which is time-consuming to complete and requires expertise to analyze. This study introduces a brief gender measure: a categorical, single-item, self-report, gender measure (SR-Gender), and demonstrates the validity and usability of this new tool.


The SR-Gender was validated in two studies. Participants in Study One were 137 undergraduates. Concurrent criterion validity was assessed by an analysis comparing responses to the SR-Gender and the BSRI and an open-ended gender question. The goal was to ascertain whether the gender identities that these students reported in the SR-Gender were consistent with the classifications obtained on other gender measurement tools. In the second study, the SR-Gender was used with a group of adults over 65 years old in a study of aging with illness.


This study established that the SR-Gender classifications of gender identity were consistent with the results obtained by the open-ended gender question and more complex BSRI measure. The SR-Gender was easily understood and used by younger and older adults, and resulted in nuanced gender classifications.

Research limitations/implications

The SR-Gender takes seconds to complete and provides health researchers with categorical gender classifications that can then be used in analysis of health outcomes, separately or in tandem with physiological sex. It treats masculinity and femininity as independent constructs and includes the potential for androgynous and undifferentiated responses. It is not recommended for in-depth gender research due to the simplicity of the tool.


This chapter introduces the SR-Gender, a simple, quick, and easy-to-use gender measure that could transform health research from paying lip service to gender to actual gender classification, allowing researchers to directly explore the impact of gender identity on health, separately or interacting with other social determinants of health.



Carver, L.F. (2018), "Health and Gender: Quantifying the Unquantifiable", Gender, Women’s Health Care Concerns and Other Social Factors in Health and Health Care (Research in the Sociology of Health Care, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 261-274.



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