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Journal Article

Gender gap in health expectancy

Oksuzyan, A., Brønnum-Hansen, H., Jeune, B.

European Journal of Ageing, 7:4, 213-218 (2010)

DOI:10.1007/s10433-010-0170-4

Keywords: disability, gender, health, life expectancy, trends

Abstract

Men have higher death rates than women, but women do worse with regard to physical strength, disability, and other health outcomes, the so called male–female health-survival paradox. The paradox is likely to be due to multiple causes that include biological, behavioral, and social differences between the sexes. Despite decades of research on the male–female health-survival paradox, we still do not fully recognize whether behavioral factors explain most of the gender gap or whether biological and social differences contribute more substantially to the explanation of the sex differences in health and mortality. Little work has been done to investigate the magnitude of sex differences in healthy life expectancy and unhealthy life expectancy, as well as to examine the contribution of mortality and disability levels to the sex gap in health expectancy. The five selected works presented at the Re´seau Espe´rance de Vie en Sante´ (REVES) Meeting 2009 in Copenhagen, and published in this issue, provide new insights into sex differences in health expectancy. The papers examine sex differences in health expectancy indicators in the EU countries, as well as trends in health expectancy in Hong Kong and in the US. They go beyond description of sex differences in health expectancy and assess the contributions of mortality and disability to gender differences in healthy life years and unhealthy life years, investigate temporal changes in sex differential health expectancy, as well as analyze contributions of time and age dimensions to the gender gap. They also show that there is still work to be done to indentify and quantify mechanisms underlying sex differences in longevity, health, and aging.

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