Sex differences in biological markers of health in the study of stress, aging and health in Russia
PLoS One, 10:6, e0131691 (2015)
The apparent contradiction that women live longer but have worse health than men, the so called male-female health-survival paradox, is very pronounced in Russia. The present study investigates whether men in Moscow are healthier than women at the level of biomarkers, and whether the associations between biomarkers and subjective health have sex-specific patterns.
Previously collected data in the study of Stress, Aging, and Health in Russia (SAHR, n = 1800) were used to examine sex differences in biomarkers and their associations with physical functioning and self-rated health.
The present study found mixed directions and magnitudes for sex differences in biomarkers. Women were significantly disadvantaged with regard to obesity and waist circumference, whereas men had a tendency toward higher prevalence of electrocardiographic abnormalities. No sex differences were indicated in the prevalence of immunological biomarkers, and mixed patterns were found for lipid profiles. Many biomarkers were associated with physical functioning and general health. Obesity and waist circumference were related to lower physical functioning among females only, while major Q-wave abnormalities with high probabilities of myocardial infarction and atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter were associated with physical functioning and self-rated health among males only.
No clear patterns of sex differences in prevalence of high-risk levels of biomarkers suggest that the male-female health-survival paradox is weaker at the level of health biomarkers. We found some evidence that certain biomarkers reflecting pathophysiological changes in the organism that do not possess acute health risks, but over many years may lead to physical disability, are associated with physical functioning and self-rated health in women, whereas others reflecting more serious life-threatening pathophysiological changes are associated with physical functioning and self-rated health in men.