The Impact of War on the Health of Women and Men – What Do We Know?

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Urdal, Henrik (2010)The Impact of War on the Health of Women and Men – What Do We Know? .

This paper reviews the empirical evidence for gendered health effects of war. The point of departure is the recent finding that civil wars generally increase female mortality more than male. The paper reviews several comparative, global studies to see whether women are generally found to be more adversely affected by war. It is further discussed how the cross-national findings compare to mortality studies of individual conflicts. Finally, the study reviews whether higher maternal mortality and fertility levels could explain excess female war mortality. Conclusions are that the findings from recent cross-national studies do not unequivocally support the claim that women are more adversely affected by war than men. Such claim is also not supported by recent studies of conflict mortality in countries like Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq. In all three cases, males were considerably more likely to die from conflict, whether violently or from other causes. Finally, studies of reproductive health suggest that maternal mortality rates are likely to increase during conflict. This could explain high female mortality levels in certain conflict and post-conflict settings. Evidence for a link between war and fertility is less clear, while there is limited evidence that conflict contributes to the spread of AIDS to such an extent that overall female mortality levels are affected.


Henrik Urdal

Henrik Urdal

Research Professor; Editor, Journal of Peace Research