Although women continue to have a longer life expectancy than men, they are now living worse and suffering more disabilities in their golden years, a new study finds.
Researchers compared data from studies of people 65 and older and enrolled in Medicare that were done in 1982, 2004 and 2011. The studies surveyed participants about whether a disability kept them carrying out various daily activities, and then followed the participants in the years following the survey to determine their mortality rate.
The researchers found that between 1982 and 2011, the number of additional years that women at age 65 could expect to live increased by two years, from 18.5 years to 20.5 years, while the life expectancy of men at age 65 increased by five years from 14 to 19 years.
More striking was the improvement in how men spent their golden years. Whereas women at age 65 were estimated to spend 30% of their remaining years with a disability in both 1982 and 2011, the proportion of the time left that men at 65 would have a disability decreased from 22% in 1982 to 19% in 2011.
The researchers considered an individual as having a disability if they reported that a disability or health problem prevented them from doing at least one of their normal activities, such as eating, shopping for groceries and getting out of bed.
“Despite the fact that women live more years than men, they can expect fewer active years,” said Vicki A. Freedman, a research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, and lead author of the study, which was published on Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.
It came as a surprise to see that men and women traded places between 1982 and 2011, and that men started to surpass women in terms of disability-free years, Freedman said.
For both genders, trends in disabilities were moving in the right direction between 1982 and 2004. The number of women and men age 65 who experienced a physical limitation dropped from 25.8% to 20.2% and from 22.3% to 15.5%, respectively. But then from 2004 to 2011, the number leveled off for men and actually climbed back up to 24.2% for women.
“The reasons are likely to be complex,” Freedman said.
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SOURCE: CNN, Carina Storrs