DOI: 10.1093/geroni/igad134 ISSN: 2399-5300

Exploring the intersectionality of place and gender among older adults in Ghana: An examination of women’s disability disadvantage

Shane D Burns, Latrica E Best, Solomon Amoatey
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Health (social science)


Background and Objectives

Ghana’s older adult population is growing rapidly and projected to double by 2050. It is well-documented that social, health, and housing factors influence segmented aging trajectories that lead to disparate rates of disability. However, little is known how the intersection of place (i.e., urban; rural) and gender (i.e., woman; man) inform rates of disability among older Ghanaians. We seek to examine this gap in the literature through an intersectional approach.

Research Design and Methods

Using logistic regression with Wave 1 (2007/08) data from the World Health Organization’s Study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE) Ghana, we investigate the prevalence of reporting activities of daily living (ADL) disability among respondents ages 50+ (n=4,106). To document gender differences by place, we compute separate adjusted odds ratio models among urban and rural respondents. We also control for health, social, and housing factors that might explain gender differences.


Compared to urban men, urban women’s ADL disability disadvantage was explained by marital status, particularly widowhood. In contrast, rural women consistently reported an ADL disability disadvantage when compared to rural men. Additionally, we found that the morbidity profiles of those who reported ADL disability differed by place and that certain ADL difficulties (i.e., bed transferring; toileting) were especially common among women respondents.

Discussion and Implications

Women, regardless of urban or rural residence, were especially vulnerable to ADL disability. Marital status, particularly widows, explained the difference in disability risk between urban men and urban women. This finding suggests that urban women’s risk of ADL disability is attenuated during partnership. Also, we speculate that varied morbidity associations with ADL disability are due to different stressors in urban versus rural environments. These findings also generate further interest about rural women’s disability disadvantage.

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