Women are living longer but they aren’t living more active years.
Between 1982 and 2011, researchers found women’s active life expectancy at age 65 increased by about two years. Men’s active life expectancy increased by about five years in that same period. The findings have been published online ahead of print by the American Journal of Public Health.
“Just a few decades ago, older women used to live more years than men without needing help taking care of themselves or managing basic household activities,” says lead author Vicki Freeman, PhD, research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan in a university-issued news release. “But that does not appear to be the case anymore.”
Researchers aren’t sure why women are lagging behind men in active life expectancy. Freedman says women, in part because of longer life expectancy and genetic risks, are more likely to fall or develop conditions such as arthritis, depression or dementia that may affect an active lifestyle.
Researchers used data from the 1982 and 2004 National Long-Term Care Survey and the 2011 National Health & Aging Trends Study to estimate disability trends among Medicare enrollees. Survey participants were asked if a disability, defined as a health issue, prevented them from doing at least one of their normal daily activities like eating, shopping for groceries or getting out of bed. Participants were observed for years after to determine their mortality rate. Female life expectancy increased from 83.5 in 1982 to 85.5 in 2011. Male life expectancy also increased from 79 in 1982 to 84 years in 2011.