Daily activities become more problematic for women than for men at older ages, which may in part be the result of socio-economic disadvantage, according to a study from University College London.
Researchers have found that older women are more likely to be limited in their “functional capacity” than men as they age. For women, daily tasks are more difficult from the age of 70 and mobility is more likely to be limited from the age of 50 compared to men of the same age.
Some of the observed differences are believed to result from women being socioeconomically disadvantaged. The research was published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.
The study used data from four long-term studies and involved more than 60,000 people from 14 different countries. Data from 27,000 men and 34,000 women, ages 50 to 100, born between 1895 and 1960 were examined for socioeconomic factors and severity of limitations.
Women were found to have lower overall functional ability. From age 75, women were more likely to have three or more mobility issues, such as going upstairs, or limitations with more complex daily tasks, such as managing money or shopping. use of the telephone. Men were more likely to have one or two problems. At age 85, the prevalence of three or more mobility limitations was 10% higher among women than among men.
Lead author Mikaela Bloomberg from University College London said: ‘Our study provides new insights into functional limitations and gender differences. This is important because mobility limitations may precede other more severe limitations.
She added: “Targeting these gaps at middle age could be a way to reduce gender differences in limitations at older ages.”
Low levels of education and domestic or unpaid work limit women’s chances of entering the labor market and expose them disproportionately to health risks that can lead to disability. The researchers found that gender inequalities could explain differences in some limitations, but not differences in mobility. This could be partly due to sex differences in body composition such as body mass and skeletal muscle index, but Bloomberg said more research is needed to identify other factors.
The researchers say the findings are important for policy makers and highlight the importance of gender equity in education and employment for health outcomes in older people.
Co-author Dr Séverine Sabia of University College London added: “Developing targeted prevention policies to preserve the autonomy and quality of life of older people requires an understanding of the drivers of differences between gender in functional limitations. Our study indicates that improving the socio-economic conditions of women could play an important role in reducing these gender differences.
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