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Women live longer than men, but with worse quality, says study

A new study sought to examine the main differences in health between men and women by analyzing 20 leading causes of disease and mortality over the last 30 years. Published in May in the scientific journal The Lancet Public Healthresearch shows that, despite living longer, women have worse health compared to men throughout life.

According to the study, women are more affected by non-fatal conditions such as musculoskeletal problems, mental health disorders and headaches. Men are disproportionately affected by conditions that can lead to early death, such as Covid-19, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory and liver diseases, as well as injuries related to traffic accidents.

The researchers also emphasize that these health differences between men and women continue to grow with age . Furthermore, because they live longer than men, women experience higher levels of illnesses and disabilities throughout their lives.

In the study, the authors differentiate between “gender” and “sex”, with the first term referring to the socially constructed roles, behaviors and identities of women and men, in addition to including gender identity. “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics of men and women. The researchers believe the analysis will serve as a call to action for countries to update sex and gender data and review approaches to health based on these differences.

How was the study carried out?

The research used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021 to compare the total number of years of life lost to disease and premature death — a measure known as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) — for the 20 leading causes of disease in women and men. Data were analyzed globally, in seven regions of the world, between 1990 and 2021.

The analysis did not include sex-specific health conditions, such as gynecological diseases or prostate cancer, for example. However, research examines health differences between conditions that affect both women and men.

Women suffer more from pain and depressive and anxiety disorders

The study shows that the main conditions that cause disability among women are low back pain, depressive and anxiety disorders, headache and other musculoskeletal disorders, in addition to Alzheimer’s and other dementias. According to the authors, these conditions may contribute to a greater prevalence of diseases and disabilities throughout life, instead of leading to early death.

According to research, the biggest difference is in low back pain, with rates of DALYs more than a third higher for women than men in 2021. The disparity was greatest in South Asia, where rates were 50 % higher in women than in men. Then come Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with rates 30% higher.

Conditions related to mental health disproportionately affect women in all regions of the world. According to the study, health loss caused by depression was a third greater among women than among men, worldwide, in 2021.

“Major causes of health loss in women, especially musculoskeletal disorders and mental health problems, have not received the attention they deserve,” says study co-author Gabriela Gil, from IHME.

Men suffer more from heart disease, Covid-19 and road injuries

The study showed that men are more affected by potentially fatal health conditions that can lead to early death. This is the case of ischemic heart disease, which had the second largest difference (45%) between men and women. In relation to Covid-19, men also suffered 45% more health loss compared to women.

The number was also disproportionate, being higher among men, in cases of road injuries, that is, traffic accidents, in all regions of the world. The biggest losses were observed among young men, between 10 and 24 years old.

“Among these challenges are conditions that lead to premature deaths, namely in the form of road injuries, cancer and heart disease. We need national health plans and strategies to respond to men’s health needs across the lifespan, including interventions that target behavioral risks, such as alcohol consumption and smoking, which typically begin at a young age,” says the paper’s co-lead author. study, Vedavati Patwardhan, from the University of California, San Diego, USA.

Solutions to sex and gender disparities

For Sorio Flor, the study highlights “an urgent need for greater attention to the non-fatal consequences that limit the physical and mental function of women, especially at older ages”. “This type of critical, comparable and comprehensive research is important, both for understanding the magnitude and distribution of the diverse and evolving health needs of women and men around the world, and for identifying key opportunities for health gains at all stages of life”, he comments.

The researchers also highlight that health differences between men and women begin to emerge in adolescence. For them, this pattern highlights the need for specific responses from an early age to prevent the emergence and worsening of health problems and to adopt approaches in health systems that adapt to the needs of the population throughout life.

Finally, the authors consider it important to uncover the roots of health differences between men and women through the collection and reporting of sex-specific and gender identity data to create public policies that offer better opportunities for equitable access to health and future healthy for all people.

Source: CNN Brasil

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