Demographic trends for the aging female population.
Female life expectancy is higher at birth and at age 65 than the corresponding male life expectancies in the United States--and in most developed countries. In contrast, age-specific prevalences of chronic disability and institutional residence are higher for elderly women than for elderly men. This apparent contradiction results from the different morbid conditions causing chronic disability in US women and men. However, morbidity differentials do not explain all the gender differences in either disability or mortality. To test for general age-related factors causing female survival advantages, we analyzed male and female mortality and disability data from national longitudinal surveys of the health and functional status of elderly men and women from 1982, 1984, and 1989. Gender-specific mortality functions and models of disability changes were used to construct male and female cohort life tables where mortality and disability interact over the life of the modeled population. Even in populations where observation started 15 years after menopause, there were significant gender differences in the rate of aging estimated conditionally on chronic disability. Possible causes of gender differences in late-age mortality and their implications for the future health of the US female population are discussed.
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