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Women Live Longer But Suffer From More Disabilities Than Men

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Women are living longer than men, but that doesn't mean these are years actively spent. According to a new U.S. study, women are living more years in their older age with disabilities than their male counterparts.

Funded by the National Institute of Aging and conducted by Vicki Freedman from the University of Michigan, Douglas Wolf from Syracuse University and Brenda Spillman from the Urban Institute, the researchers examined studies of people aged 65 and older enrolled in Medicare from 1982, 2004 and 2011. The data consisted of surveys that asked how often disabilities prevented their daily activities and followed the participants to see how long they lived.

Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the new research revealed that, on average, a 65-year-old woman's life expectancy increased by two years to now being 85.5 years. However, even though women are outliving men, approximately 30 percent of 65-year-old women were found to be living with a disability.

The life expectancy for women may be longer than their counterparts, but men are actually living longer as well — and healthier lives, we must add. The life expectancy of the average man aged 65 increased by five years, to 84, compared with the previous expected age of 79. Men also live with less disabilities in their older age, and only 19 percent of 65-year-olds suffered from a health issue that prevented them from doing things like driving, cooking, dressing or bathing.

The researchers don't know exactly why women are living out their golden years with a poorer quality of healthy, but they do believe many factors, like smoking and exercise throughout their lifetimes, can play a role. Women also may have fewer economic resources than men, which can influence whether or not they can get proper health treatment, preventive care and medicine. Women may also take on caretaking roles compared with men, which prevents them from putting their health first. Since they are living longer lives, women might also suffer from a serious health issue like a heart attack or stroke and become disabled as they recover.

It's important to note that this study only looked at three years of health data, which can make it hard to see how disabilities really affect the lifespan of the elderly. 

Source: Reuters

Photo: David Hodgson | Flickr

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