Women live longer but not as disability-free as men

Washington : According to a recent study, women continue to have a longer life expectancy than men, but they are now living worse and suffering more disabilities in their old age.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, was conducted by Vicki Freedman of the University of Michigan, Douglas Wolf of Syracuse University and Brenda Spillman of the Urban Institute.

“Just a few decades ago, older women used to live more years than men without needing help taking care of themselves or managing basic household activities,” Freedman said. “But that does not appear to be the case anymore.”

The researchers used data from 1982, 2004 and 2011 drawn from two large studies of disability trends in the U.S. among representative samples of Medicare enrollees.

Over the full 30-year period, they found that men’s active life expectancy at age 65 increased by more than four years. During the same period, women’s active life expectancy at age 65 increased by only 1.4 years.

Freedman noted that older men have been living longer and experiencing disability at later ages than they used to, while older women have experienced smaller increases in life expectancy and even smaller postponements in disability. As a result, older women no longer can expect to live more active years than older men, despite their longer lives.

“Men this age can now expect nearly four-and-a-half additional active years, up from two-and-a-half years three decades ago,” Freedman said. “Women this age can expect to live only about two-and-a-half years free from disability, just about the same amount as in 1982.”

According to the researchers, the reasons that women have lost ground relative to men in active life expectancy are complex. To help older women, they suggest a greater focus on quality rather than quantity of life.

The study is published online by the American Journal of Public Health. (ANI)