Category: Gender

Females ‘Significantly’ More Likely to Experience Long COVID

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A new study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion has revealed that females are “significantly” more likely to suffer from Long COVID than males and will experience substantially different symptoms.

Long COVID is a syndrome in which complications persist more than four weeks after the initial infection of COVID, sometimes for many months.

In a review of studies, researchers observed females with Long COVID are presenting with a variety of symptoms including ear, nose, and throat issues; mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders; as well as fatigue.

Male patients, however, were more likely to experience endocrine disorders such as diabetes and kidney disorders.

“Knowledge about fundamental sex differences underpinning the clinical manifestations, disease progression, and health outcomes of COVID is crucial for the identification and rational design of effective therapies and public health interventions that are inclusive of and sensitive to the potential differential treatment needs of both sexes,” the authors explained.

“Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in Long COVID syndrome. Females mount more rapid and robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity. However, this same difference can render females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune-related diseases.”

In their review, researchers gathered a total sample size amounting to 1 393 355 unique individuals.

While the number of participants sounds large, only 35 of the 640 634 total articles in the literature provided sex disaggregated data in sufficient details about symptoms and sequalae of COVID disease to understand how females and males experience the disease differently.

The findings showed that, with the initial onset of COVID, female patients were far more likely to experience mood disorders such as depression, ear, nose, and throat symptoms, musculoskeletal pain, and respiratory symptoms. Male patients, on the other hand, were more likely to suffer from renal disorders.

The authors note that this synthesis of the available literature is among the few to break down the specific health conditions that occur as a result of COVID-related illness by sex. Plenty of studies have examined sex differences in hospitalisation, ICU admission, ventilation support, and mortality. But the research on the specific conditions that are caused by the virus, and its long-term damage to the body, have been understudied when it comes to sex.

“Sex differences in outcomes have been reported during previous coronavirus outbreaks,” the authors added. “Therefore, differences in outcomes between females and males infected with SARS-CoV-2 could have been anticipated. Unfortunately, most studies did not evaluate or report granular data by sex, which limited sex-specific clinical insights that may be impacting treatment.” Ideally, sex disaggregated data should be made available even if it was not the researcher’s primary objective, so other interested researchers can use the data to explore important differences between the sexes.

Greater occupational exposure through traditionally female-dominated jobs may may complicate interpretation the COVID sequelae.

Source: EurekAlert!

Sex of Red Blood Cell Donors Does not Affect Recipient Survival

https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-close-up-shot-of-bags-of-blood-4531306/
Photo by Charlie-Helen Robinson on Pexels

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that, after taking haemoglobin levels into count, sex and previous pregnancy of blood donors do not affect the survival of patients receiving red blood cell transfusions. Differences in recipient survival depend rather on the haemoglobin quantity in the transfusion, the researchers found.

Female donor sex and previous pregnancy are established risk factors for transfusion-related acute lung injury following plasma and platelet transfusions, which is a leading cause of transfusion-related mortality.

Previous studies have produced conflicting results as to how donor sex affects the recipient’s survivability in the recipient following red blood cell transfusion. Some studies have indicated higher mortality in patients who have received red blood cells from women, in men who have received red blood cells from women who have been pregnant, and in sex-mismatched transfusions. Other studies, however, have not reported such correlations.

This question has now been further explored by researchers from Karolinska Institutet in a register study of almost 370 000 patients in Sweden who received a red blood cell transfusion for the first time between 2010 and 2018.

The aim of the study was to see how the sex and previous pregnancy status of the donor affects survival in the recipient within two years from transfusion. It also looked at how the risk of needing more transfusions differed between patients who received red blood cells from female and male donors. Blood from women on average contains less haemoglobin than blood from men, meaning that more transfusions might be required to obtain the desired level of haemoglobin in a recipient.

The study demonstrates that the median value for haemoglobin was lower in female blood donors (135g/L than male (149g/L) and that patients who received blood from a woman had a 12% higher risk of needing another transfusion within 24 hours than blood from a man. However, this sex difference was eliminated when adjusting for the donors’ haemoglobin levels, which the researchers say was an expected effect that had not been factored into previous studies.

“When we take into account the lower haemoglobin levels in blood from women, we see no difference in survival among patients who received a blood transfusion from women compared with from men, regardless of how many times the female donors had been pregnant and of the patients’ sex and age,” said the study’s first author Jingcheng Zhao, adjunct researcher at Karolinska Institutet. “Differences in haemoglobin levels are a source of error that previous studies have not taken into consideration and that might explain the conflicting results that has been seen previously.”

Data for the study was drawn from national population, health and blood donor registries. The study also shows that donor sex is naturally randomly distributed in the patient material since no regard is paid to the sex and previous pregnancies of the donors by the blood donor centres when supplying blood. According to the researchers, this means that more far-reaching conclusions be drawn.

Dr Zhao said this allows them to determine causality. “We’ll now continue developing methods for studying causal relationships in transfusion epidemiology using observational data, on things like donor characteristics and how blood is handled. There’s still much we don’t know about blood transfusion and its effects.”

One limitation is that it was not possible to separately study transfusions where the red blood cells had not undergone leukoreduction (the filtering out of white blood cells), since this procedure has been standard in Sweden since the 1990s. The researchers therefore add a caveat about generalizing the conclusions to erythrocyte concentrates that have not undergone leukoreduction, which, however, is relatively uncommon now.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

June Marks Men’s Health Awareness Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men, on average, die five years earlier than women and die at higher rates from three leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries – and, more recently, from COVID. During Men’s Health Month, we encourage men to take control of their health and for families to teach young boys healthy habits throughout childhood.

In June every year, we pay special attention to men’s health. Men’s Health Month aims to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month allows health care providers, public policymakers, the media, and individuals to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.

Men are more reluctant to seek healthcare

A health gap exists – men die younger than women, and they are more burdened by illness during life. They fall ill at a younger age and have more chronic conditions than women. Research by Harvard Health Publishing shows that men are more than three times more likely than women to develop kidney stones, become alcoholics, or have bladder cancer. They are about twice as likely to suffer from emphysema or a duodenal ulcer. Although women see doctors more often than men, the healthcare investment required for caring for men amounts to much more, especially beyond the age of 65.

However, society expects men to be seen as tough, push through pain, and rarely show signs of weakness. This mindset subconsciously trains men to believe that seeking help of any kind – including going to the doctor – exhibits weakness. But it is not only society’s influence that plays a part. Further research shows that 21% of men tend to avoid the doctor because of fear. They worry about an adverse diagnosis or a bad outcome. This same research finds that only 40% of men go to the doctor only when they have a severe health issue and never go for routine check-ups. It is far lower than women’s frequency of doctor visits, and it is a concerning figure.

Unfortunately, mental health is also one of the most stigmatised issues affecting men. The American Psychological Association reports that 30.6% of men have suffered from depression in their lifetime, and their hesitation to seek care may be worsening this issue. As a trend, men are notorious for not talking about their feelings. Psychologists have documented that discussing emotions is just another form of vulnerability that can lead to discomfort for men. It can be scary for many men to begin sharing their feelings. But the payoff is worth it: men who express their feelings verbally are less likely to express them violently.

How Medshield supports men

Medshield offers a variety of plans that suit members of every age and budget. Our Managed Care Programmes assist our members with managing chronic conditions in collaboration with the member’s respective treating practitioners. We encourage men to utilise our Wellness Benefits which include cover for annual tests e.g. cholesterol and PSA Screening, for early diagnosis and treatment. Our benefit plans allow you the freedom to visit your doctor for a general appointment at any time to monitor your overall health, and our plans have robust mental health benefits to ensure holistic care.

Many people feel that medical aid schemes cost too much, but having the right plan means you won’t need to rely on state clinics and hospitals for care. It also means you can have tests, screenings, and procedures done early without waiting to save enough cash for it (and potentially worsening your condition). Healthcare does not always just require hospital stays, either – sometimes other expenses appear in physiotherapy, dental visits, and even costly chronic medication that most would struggle to cover each month. Nobody can predict what the future holds, and unfortunately, sometimes the sudden onset of illness or an accident are common aspects of life.

We encourage men to take charge of their health!

Let’s work together to turn these trends around. This June, we invite all men to take that step toward a healthier lifestyle and to get screened for any potential illnesses. You may be resistant at first, but persistence is powerful, and you’ll be doing your part to improve your health.

Here are ten tips to start on your new health journey:

  • Avoid tobacco in all its forms.
  • Eat well. That means eating more healthful foods and fewer harmful foods.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise nearly every day.
  • Stay lean. It’s equally hard for men and women, but partial success will help.
  • If you choose to drink, limit yourself to one to two drinks a day, counting 150ml of wine, 375ml of beer, and 30 ml of spirits as one drink.
  • Reduce stress by getting enough sleep and building social ties and community support.
  • Avoid risky behaviour, including drug abuse, unsafe sex, dangerous driving, unsafe firearm use, and living in hazardous household conditions.
  • Get regular medical check-ups, screening tests, and immunisations.
  • Seek joy and share it with others – laughter is good medicine. Fun and optimism improve health as well as happiness.

Sex-differentiation Genes Also Contribute to Disease Risks

Man and woman about to sprint
Source: Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Some physical traits that differ between sexes are known to be linked to certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) outside the X and Y chromosomes. New research now suggests that many of these ‘sex-heterogenous’ SNPs also contribute to a person’s risk for a variety of diseases. Michela Traglia and colleagues at the University of California San Francisco presented their findings in PLOS Genetics.

Millions of SNPs are in each genome, with each SNP representing a difference in a certain DNA building block in a particular stretch of DNA. Many associations have been uncovered between certain SNPs and people’s distinct traits. Understanding SNPs has a number of applications, such as predicting individual treatment effectiveness or disease risks.

Traglia and colleagues previously found that SNPs associated with certain differences in physical traits between men and women, such as waist-hip ratio and basal metabolic rate, may also affect the biology of autism spectrum disorder and other complex diseases. Building on this work with two large genomic datasets, the identified an updated list of 2320 sex-heterogeneous SNPs.

Analysis of these SNPs revealed that they are also associated with a variety of health-related traits and diseases, some with strong sex bias and some without, including schizophrenia, type 2 diabetes, anorexia, heart failure, and ADHD.

These SNPs are located in stretches of DNA that are either within or near genes involved in skeletal and muscle development in a growing embryo. In addition, these SNPs appear to play a role in regulating gene expression and DNA methylation, which are fundamental processes by which a person’s DNA is translated into their distinct biology and traits.

Overall, the researchers conclude that the identified SNPs play a role in early-life biological processes shaping sex-distinct traits and which also affect health and disease risk later in life. More work is needed to understand the mechanisms behind these sex-heterogeneous SNPs.

“We found that genetic alleles with differing effects on measured physical traits in men and women also play an outsized role in health risks,” remarked study co-author Lauren Weiss. “We hope this work helps us to understand the genetic underpinnings of sexual dimorphism and its relationship with both early development and later disease risk.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Low Sex Hormone Levels Linked to Rotator Cuff Tears

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Patients with lower levels of sex hormones are more likely to need to undergo surgery for rotator cuff tears, suggests a study in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery

Sex hormone deficiencies “was associated with a significantly increased incidence of RCR within [two] independent databases,” according to the new research by Peter N. Chalmers, MD, and colleagues at University of Utah. These findings add to previous evidence that hormone levels may be a systemic factor contributing to the development of rotator cuff tears, a common condition that is a major cause of shoulder pain.

The study used health insurance data for nearly 230 000 adults under age 65 who underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff from 2008 through 2017. Patients were matched for age, sex, and type of insurance to patients who did not undergo rotator cuff surgery.

Patients undergoing rotator cuff repair had an average age of 54 years, and 58% were men. Most patient characteristics were similar between those who underwent rotator cuff repair and those who did not, except tobacco use, which was more common in the surgical cohort.

Dr Chalmers and colleagues found that 27% of women and 7% of men undergoing rotator cuff surgery had diagnosed sex hormone deficiency, compared with 20% and 4% respectively in the control group. Controlling for other factors, rotator cuff repair likelihood was 48% higher in women with oestrogen deficiency and 89% higher in men with testosterone deficiency.

To confirm their findings, the researchers then accessed the Veterans Administration Genealogy database which has data on millions of individuals. Here, they found that rotator cuff repair was about 2.5 times more likely for women with oestrogen deficiency and three times more likely for men with testosterone deficiency.

This study builds on a prior study by the same research group, which demonstrated that women with mutations in an oestrogen receptor gene were more likely to develop rotator cuff disease, with higher rates of failed rotator cuff surgery.

Despite limitations such as not accounting for hormone replacement therapy, the observed association between sex hormone deficiency and rotator cuff repair strongly supports the theory that low oestrogen and testosterone levels may contribute to the development of rotator cuff tears. The researchers concluded that “Future prospective studies will be necessary to understand the relationship of sex hormones to the pathophysiology of rotator cuff disease.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Sex Differences in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Explained

Toilet sign male and female
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Investigators may have discovered the reason why fewer women than men develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). They published their findings in Nature Communications.

One of the most common disorders globally, NAFLD is a leading cause of death worldwide. Its progressive form, ‘nonalcoholic steatohepatitis’ (NASH), affects about 30% of all NAFLD patients, and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Despite intensive research, the underlying mechanisms of NAFLD/NASH are still poorly understood and effective treatment is lacking as a result.

However, it is known that NAFLD/NASH is more common among men than women, especially premenopausal women. The reasons for this are still unclear, but evidence so far suggests that oestrogen plays a protective role. On the other hand, the protein formyl peptide receptor 2 (FPR2) is known to play an important role in mediating inflammatory responses in multiple organs. However, no study so far has determined its role in the liver. Could FPR2 be involved in the sex-related differences regarding NAFLD prevalence and severity?

Addressing this question, a research team led by Professor Youngmi Jung of Pusan National University, Korea, recently conducted a study using mice model, shedding light on the role of FPR2 in NAFLD/NASH and its relationship to the observed sex-based differences. This work is among the very few studies on NAFLD that relies on sex-balanced animal experiments rather than the more common male-only designs.

The researchers first found that Fpr2 was highly expressed in healthy livers of female mice. Furthermore, it was expressed differently in the livers of male and female mice that were fed a special NAFLD-inducing diet. Silencing the Fpr2 gene made the male and female mice equally vulnerable to NAFLD, suggesting that FPR2 has a protective effect on the liver.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that FPR2 production in the liver is mediated by oestrogen. Males supplemented with external oestrogen produced more Fpr2 and were more resistant to NAFLD, whereas females that had their ovaries removed exhibited reduced liver Fpr2 levels. “Taken together, our findings suggest that FPR2 is a potential therapeutic target for developing pharmacological agents to treat NAFLD/NASH,” says Prof Jung. “In addition, our results could help in the development of gender-based therapies for NASH.”

This unprecedented discovery of the female-specific production of FPR2 in the liver and its role in providing resistance against NAFLD/NASH will hopefully pave the way not only for novel treatments but also a more comprehensive and sex-aware approach when doing science. Prof Jung remarked on this: “Our research highlights the pressing need for designing and developing better sex-balanced animal experiments, considering that the sex-specific expression of FPR2 in the liver had been completely overlooked in previous studies.”

Source: Pusan National University

The Pandemic’s Negative Impact on Women in Academic Medicine

Female scientist in laboratory
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Like women in every other sector of the economy, the COVID pandemic has negatively impacted those working in academic medicine according to a commentary which appears in Nature Medicine.

Co-author Anne B. Curtis, MD, professor at the University at Buffalo, laid out the problem: “During the first year of the pandemic, when schools shut down and went to 100% remote learning, we saw that it affected women disproportionately, having to stay home and teach their children while their research languished.”

Even before the COVID pandemic, women in academic medicine were paid less than men in comparable positions, received lower startup funds for laboratory research and were promoted later.

Additionally, they wrote that, compared to men, women have fewer “conventional markers of achievement” in academia, such as principal investigator positions on research grants. Women write fewer grant applications; they have fewer grant renewals; they get lower funding amounts for initial grants; and are first or last author on fewer papers.

The reasons for these are well known, the authors wrote.

“Society expects women to assume the major portion of the burden for child rearing, and women themselves feel an obligation to put family above their own needs, to the detriment of their own career development,” she said. “There still isn’t the sharing of responsibilities in two-career families to mitigate these problems.”

The paper includes a detailed ‘menu’ of proposed solutions. These include providing financial support to hire technicians for two to three years to carry on lab research while women researchers focus on child care at home, or otherwise supporting child care at home so women can continue their lab research.

The paper also proposes slowing down tenure clocks, delaying the tenure decision by two to three years to make up for lost time while women give birth and care for young children.

In addition to such programs, the list includes a category of solutions termed “cultural,” described as creating the cultural expectation that gender equity is a shared responsibility and incorporating those expectations into bonuses and merit raises of institutional leaders. Also included is the need to engage university and hospital boards of trustees to support gender equity.

Prof Curtis said that the paper aims to highlight the persistence of these gender differences persist and that global phenomena like the pandemic only worsen them.

“As much as we would like to think that gender differences in career development no longer exist, they do, and they adversely affect women more than men,” she said. “Understanding these issues and implementing solutions are the best ways to minimise potentially adverse effects on women’s careers.”

As the pandemic and its associated restrictions ease, Prof Curtis warned, “The situation is improving now that schools are open, but the next pandemic may only be a mutation away.”

Source: Buffalo University

Hypertension Risk for Women After Sexual Assault or Harassment

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A new study has found that women who have experienced sexual assault or harassment are at higher long-term risk of developing hypertension than women who have not.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the US, nearly 43% of women aged 20 and older have hypertension. Defined as a blood pressure of 130/80mmHg or higher, hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease – the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year.

“We know that experiences of sexual violence in the form of sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment are common, and that women are disproportionately victims of such violence, with 13–44% of women reporting sexual assault and up to 80% of women reporting workplace sexual harassment,” said study author Rebecca B. Lawn, PhD. “However, exposure to sexual violence is not widely recognized as a contributor to women’s cardiovascular health. We felt it was important to investigate the relationship among common forms of sexual violence with the risk of developing hypertension. These links could help in the early identification of factors that influence women’s long-term cardiovascular health.”

In this study, researchers analysed data over the course of seven years beginning with a 2008 follow-up of the Nurses’ Health Study II, an ongoing cohort study of US women. The 2008 follow-up measured the incidence of sexual violence and other trauma exposure, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and symptoms of depression, among a subset of 54 703 of the study’s original participants.

From that subset, Lawn and colleagues analysed data for 33 127 women (95% non-Hispanic white women; average age of 53 years at the beginning of the 2008 follow-up) who had no history of hypertension or had not taken medication for high blood pressure as of the start of the 2008 follow-up.

The analyses found:

  • At the seven-year follow-up in 2015, about 1 in 5 (nearly 7100) of the women self-reported they had developed hypertension, validated with medical records.
  • Sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment were common, with lifetime prevalence of 23% for sexual assault and 12% for workplace sexual harassment; 6% of women reported experiencing both.

Compared to women with no history of sexual assault or harassment, women who reported having experienced both had the greatest increased hypertension risk (21%), followed women who reported experiencing workplace sexual harassment (15%) and an women who reported experiencing sexual assault (11%).

“We did not find any association of increased risk for hypertension among women who had a history of other types of trauma and who did not experience sexual violence, suggesting that increased hypertension risk does not appear to be associated with all trauma exposure,” Dr Lawn said. “Our finding that experiencing both sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment had the highest risk of hypertension underscores the potential compounding effects of multiple sexual violence exposures on women’s long-term cardiovascular health.”

Dr Lawn observed screening for partner violence by primary care clinicians is becoming more common, sexual violence overall is not recognised as a risk factor among women for developing cardiovascular disease.

“These results suggest that screening for a broader range of experiences of sexual violence in routine health care, including sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as verbal harassment or assault, and being aware of and treating potential cardiovascular health consequences may be beneficial for women’s long-term health,” she said. “Reducing sexual violence against women, which is important in its own right, may also provide a strategy for improving women’s lifetime cardiovascular health.”

There are several limitations to the study, including memory biases in recall of sexual violence. The sexual assault and harassment had no measures of severity or timing. Most of the women in the study were white women in the nursing field, limiting generalisability.

“We hope future studies will examine these questions with more detailed information on sexual and other forms of violence. These questions need to be investigated in more diverse groups of people of various ages, races and ethnic backgrounds and gender,” Dr Lawn said. “Although women are disproportionately victims of sexual violence, men are also victims and the physical health implications of experiences of sexual violence against men warrants further investigation.”

Source: American Heart Association

Urinary Incontinence Worsens as Women Age

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A new study published in Menopause suggests postmenopausal women aged 45 to 54 years are more likely to have overactive bladder (OAB) syndrome. Additionally, obesity and multiple births put a woman at greater risk for stress urinary incontinence (SUI). 

Urinary incontinence symptoms are common in women and typically worsen as women age. In the United States, the prevalence of urinary incontinence is 17.1% in women aged 20 years or older and 38% in women aged 60 years and older.

There are two main types of urinary incontinence: urinary urge incontinence (UUI) and SUI. Urinary urge incontinence is defined as the involuntary loss of urine associated with the urge to urinate. Stress urinary incontinence, which women are more likely to be diagnosed with, is the involuntary loss of urine because of effort or physical exertion, including sporting activities, sneezing, and coughing. Overactive bladder syndrome is characterised by urinary urgency and is usually accompanied by increased daytime frequency and/or nocturia, with urinary incontinence.

This is the largest known study, with data from more than 12 000 women. Its goal was to investigate the prevalence and factors associated with urinary symptoms.

While the study showed a significant association of OAB in women aged 45 to 54 years and postmenopausal status, it also demonstrated that SUI symptoms may likely become less frequent after menopause. However, high body mass index and the number of times a woman has given birth were shown to increase SUI symptoms.
Other factors studied included smoking status, history of diabetes, hysterectomy, and the use of hormone therapy. The researchers suggest that additional studies should be conducted to consider the association between time since menopause and OAB symptoms in the perimenopause period.

“This study underscores how common urinary incontinence is in women, with nearly one in five Japanese women reporting urinary incontinence related to OAB or SUI in the last month. Midlife women were particularly affected by SUI (18.2% in women aged 50 to 54 years). Given the significant negative effect on quality of life and the presence of effective strategies for management of these burdensome symptoms, clinicians should routinely ask women about urinary incontinence,” said Dr Stephanie Faubion, The North American Menopause Society medical director.

Source: EurekAlert!

Older Women Struggle More with Daily Activities

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Older women are more likely to struggle with both regular daily tasks and mobility activities, according to new analysis of longitudinal cohort studies.

However, the researchers say disparities in ability to perform daily tasks have been steadily decreasing as the socioeconomic gap between the sexes has decreased.  

The international study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, uses data from more than 27 000 men and 34 000 women aged 50 to 100, born between 1895 and 1960, to examine sex differences in daily activity and mobility limitations. Researchers at UCL and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in France drew on four large longitudinal studies, covering 14 countries*.

Women were more found to be more likely than men to be limited in their ‘functional capacity’ (both tasks and mobility) as they get older. From age 75, women were also more likely to have three or more mobility issues (such as going up a flight of stairs) or limitations with more complex daily tasks (eg managing money) compared to men who were more likely to have just one or two. At age 85 years, the prevalence of three or more mobility limitations was 10% higher in women than in men.

Lead author, Mikaela Bloomberg, UCL PhD candidate, explained: “Our study of over 60,000 participants born between 1895 and 1960 provides new insights on functional limitations and sex differences.

“We found that women are more likely to be limited than men in carrying out daily tasks from age 70, while we observed women were more likely to be limited in mobility activities from age 50 onward.

“This is an important observation because mobility limitations can precede other more severe limitations and targeting these gaps at middle age could be one way to reduce sex differences in limitations at older ages.”

Historical socioeconomic differences between men and women in areas such as education and entrance to the labour force may partly explain these differences, as women are disproportionately exposed to associated health risks that can lead to disability.

“It appears that gender inequalities in the ability to carry out daily tasks at older age are decreasing over time and this could be explained by the fact that women have better access to education and are more likely to enter the paid labour force in recent generations,” said Bloomberg.

“And although reductions in socioeconomic inequalities may be associated with smaller disparities in simple daily tasks, we did not see the same reductions in sex disparities for mobility after accounting for socioeconomic factors. This might be partly due to sex differences in body composition such as body mass and skeletal muscle index but more research is needed to identify other factors.”

Co-author Dr Séverine Sabia added: “Developing targeted prevention policies to preserve independent living and quality of life for older adults requires an understanding of drivers of sex differences in functional limitations.

“Our study indicates improvements in socioeconomic conditions for women could play an important role in reducing these sex differences. Findings also highlight the importance of early prevention to tackle sex differences in mobility that may trigger sex differences in disability at older age.”

Source: University College London