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When is it sex difference and when is it gender difference?

How do you know when to call something a sex difference rather than a gender difference? Using the definitions given for sex (biological differences between males and females) and gender (socially defined differences between men and women), sex differences therefore refer only to those differences that can be attributed solely to biological difference. Medical literature most commonly addresses biological sex differences. Increasingly we find that medical evidence is published with sex as a variable of analysis.

Gender differences delineate those differences that exist between men and women. Gender differences by definition take into consideration the fact that outside the test tube it is impossible to control for the interactions between people and their environment. Outcomes data therefore demonstrate gender difference because it is impossible to tell whether health outcomes are 100% attributable to the biology of males and females or whether they are some mixture of the interaction between biology and the environment within which men and women experience them.

It is therefore more common to use gender differences as a blanket term for sex and gender difference when speaking about people b ecause you can’t separate them from their environment. The generic rule of thumb must therefore be:

If you know that the difference is 100% biological it's a Sex Difference,

Everything else must be considered a Gender Difference.

Content by Ann-Maree Nobelius, 23 June 2004