A gender perspective in health policies is needed because of biological differences, differences in lifestyles and differences in the socio-economic positions between women and men.
A number of illnesses strike women and men at different ages, men and women suffer from different illnesses and some conditions are more serious among women or among groups of women. Life expectancy also varies according to sex. Norwegian women live longer than Norwegian men, longer than most other women in the world, and longer than any male population in the world.
Traditional masculinity may also be seen as hazardous to men’s health. More men tend to die of accidents and suicide than women. The knowledge and practices within health and medical services are often biased, based on an unconscious male norm. Furthermore, welfare benefits due to illness are often based on the permanent, full-time employee. This can have negative consequences for women, as many women in Norway work part-time.
The health system faces challenges in providing good and easily accessible services to for example women of immigrant backgrounds, lesbian women and gay men, disabled women, single mothers and fathers, and older women.
Many immigrant women feel alienated in Norwegian society. They find themselves cut off from their accustomed social set-up and are still mainly responsibility for looking after and tending to their family’s needs. Some of them have been victims of abuse and torture in their home countries. Language problems can be aggravated by illness and life crises.
There is also a lack of systematic knowledge about Sami women's health and living conditions. Women with disabilities often find that they lose out on many fronts. Women are generally poorer than men, and disabled women find that they have even more limited access to resources. That women live for a long time means Norway has a large number of elderly women. Many older women are single and receive only a small share in the benefits of the welfare state.
In Norway, a woman's right to make decisions concerning her own body is a major guiding principle, visible through the Abortion on Demand Act, easy access to contraception and the right to free health services during pregnancy and childbirth.