Does less autonomy erode women's health? Yes. no. maybe

Craig Hadley, Alexandra Brewis, Ivy Pike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Understanding the determinants of health is a central objective of human biology and related fields. Female autonomy is hypothesized to be an important determinant of women's health as well as demographic outcomes. The literature relating women's health to their everyday autonomy has produced conflicting results, and this may be due in part to the application of different measures of autonomy and different measures of health. Using secondary data from a large nationally representative study, this study examines the relationship between multiple measures of female autonomy and three measures of wellbeing among women living in Uzbekistan (n 5 5,396). The multivariate results show that women's autonomy related to freedom of movement is associated with lower levels of depression symptomatology and lower systolic blood pressure. Respondents who assert that women should have control over their bodies also had lower odds of high depression symptoms and lower diastolic blood pressure. In contrast, women with greater decision-making autonomy were more likely to be classified as having high depressive symptomatology and higher diastolic blood pressure. Building on recent work, we suggest that these associations might reflect varying levels of agreement between men and women, and we provide some limited evidence to support this. This study stands as a theoretical and methodological cautionary note by suggesting that the relationship between autonomy and health is complex. Further, if differences in gender agreement underlie differences in the predictive accuracy of autonomy scales, then human biology researchers will need to begin collecting identical data from men and women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-110
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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