Gender differences have been observed in the way males and females process cognitive stimuli coming from exposure to works of art and participation in leisure activities. For this reason, we designed a project to assess this issue, with a cross-sectional study in Milan, on a sample of the population consisting in 1,000 inhabitants. Our objective was to assess how cultural participation affects subjective well-being, measured with the Psychological General Well-being Scale, which gives a global index of psychological well-being ranging from 0 (lowest level of well-being) to 110 (highest level of well-being). The survey was conducted with the assistance of Doxa, an Italian pollster company, through telephone interviews, according to the Computer Aided Telephone Interview system. A significant statistical difference in variable distribution between the two genders was found for civil status (more males resulted as being single and more women widowed), income (higher income in males), cultural participation (higher in males) and psychological well-being (higher in males). As expected, state of health has the maximum impact on the level of psychological well-being. The increase in the number of concomitant diseases is in fact linearly associated with a progressive increase in psychological distress with average scores of around 60 (very low level of well-being), in the presence of 5 or more concomitant diseases, in both males and females. The impact profile of nine major determinants on subjective well-being resulted to be clearly different in the two genders. Health status dominates in both, but its impact is higher in females than in males. The obtained results remained substantially unchanged also when the two gender groups were matched according to civil status and income level distribution. Leisure activities play an important role in females (second place after health status), while in males they result as being less important (fourth place after health status, civil status and occupation). Education is quite important for females (third place), while it is given the least importance in males. This different profile probably reflects different social and environmental influences on the two genders. The social and psychological implications of these findings are discussed.
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