According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, while women may life longer than their male counterparts, they are not living better during their golden years; suffering with more conditions and disabilities as they age, which ultimately affects their quality of life.
The research team reviewed past studies conducted in 1982, 2004, and 2011 from individuals aged 65 or older who were enrolled within Medicare. The participants were surveyed about how disabilities affected their day-to-day activities, and then were followed after the survey.
The data revealed that within the 1982 to 2011-time frame, a women’s life expectancy at the age of 65 increased by two years (from 18.5 to 20.5), while the men within the studies increased to five years (from 14 to 19). What was more surprising was how the older male lived throughout their golden years, versus their female counterparts.
The women in the studies spent 30% of their remaining years after 65 with a disability (both in 1982 and 2011), while the men experienced a decrease in their disability from 22% (in 1982) to 19% (in 2011).
The team considered a disability as a health issue or condition that stopped the participants from doing a minimum of one activity from their daily routine. Examples of this would be: getting out of bed, eating, grocery shopping, or general errands. Lead author of the study, Vicki A. Freedman, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, noted that while the women in the study did live longer, they experienced less activity within those years.
Even more surprising, the men traded places with their female counterparts 1982 and 2011, and began exceeding them when it came to enjoying disability-free years as they aged. But what could the reasoning behind this be?
Freedman states the factors could be complicated. She goes on to note that men and women experience quite different issues when it comes to health as they grow older, and perhaps the healthcare system is getting better at treating the conditions men have; and a fine example of this is the progress around heart disease, which tends to affect more men – versus arthritis, a condition that afflicts more women.
CNN reports that another factor could be the health behaviors in 2011 within the groupings of older adults who were surveyed. Smoking, for instance, was on the rise for women; yet had decreased for men at that point in time. As well, Freedman adds, on average, older women have less economic resources than their male counterparts, making it more challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
On a high note, Freedman states that there has not been increase in severe disability overall, which was defined around those older adults would could not carry out a minimum of three separate activities daily due to their condition. In 2004 and 2011, approximately seven percent of males in the study and 10 percent of females were listed under a severe disability category, which is a decrease from the 10.7 percent and 13.2 percent in 1982.