Quick links:


Sex and gender are often used interchangeably and as if they mean the same thing, however they do not.

The World Health Organization defines sex as the characteristics of women and men that are biologically determined. People are born male or female but learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men.

In the policy brief How can gender equity be addressed through health systems? the WHO says gender refers to socially constructed differences between women and men, including expectations of roles, and responsibilities, as well as differences in patterns of employment and unpaid work.

Scottish Government Evidence Reviews

The Scottish Government has published a series of Equality Evidence Reviews, to inform the development of the public sector's equality outcomes. The reviews explore available evidence about the scale and severity of issues faced by people with protected characteristics, including gender.


The Scottish Government Equality Evidence finder includes information on:

The Scottish Public Health Observatory website includes information on:

The Census Data Explorer gives access to aggregated and anonymised results from census releases. The information is taken from the Scottish 2011 Census questionnaire and includes information on sex, including general health by sex and age.


Equally Well, the report of the Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities highlights how diversity and life circumstances can interact and pose increased risks to health, citing gender as an example:

‘Gender, and masculinity in particular, contributes to problems of violence, to the reluctance of men to seek help for problems and may make men more likely to resort to alcohol and drugs than to seek help for a mental health problem’ (p.12). Therefore, one of the priority health outcomes the task force is focusing on is drug and alcohol problems and links to violence that affect younger men in particular and where inequalities are widening.


The Equality Act 2010 provides protection for women and men from all backgrounds, workforce and service delivery perspectives. There are nine 'protected characteristics' under the Act, one of which is sex.

The Act brings together all the legal requirements on equality that the private, public and voluntary sectors need to follow and replaces all the existing equality law including gender and sex equality legislation.

More information on the gender aspect of the Public Sector Equality Duty is available on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Further information is available on our Human Rights page.

Updated April 2015

We use cookies to help improve this website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue. Don't show this message again