Updated: August 5, 2021 8:20:00 pm
Gender differences in societal ageing favour men over women, which suggests that men have better resources to help them cope with the challenges of ageing. The international analysis, published on Thursday in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal, is the first of its kind to investigate gender differences in the ageing experience of older people across 18 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
The study reveals that different gender roles in society not only shape women’s and men’s lifetime opportunities, but also their experience of ageing. Men are especially advantaged in income and wealth, are much more likely to be financially secure, be engaged in paid work, and spend fewer years in ill health than women in later life.
Worldwide, the number of people aged 65 years and older is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, rising from 703 million in 2019 to 1.5 billion in 2050. While women in OECD countries have an average life expectancy that is over three years longer than men, they spend more years in poor health.
Although most OECD countries have achieved universal health coverage, the disproportionately greater risk of disability and ill health in women increases their likelihood of needing long-term care. Women also earn less and are more likely to live alone at the end of their lives.
“Ageing societies reinforce the prevailing gender norms in which men continue to be allocated the majority of opportunities, resources, and social support”, says lead author Dr Cynthia Chen from the National University of Singapore in Singapore. “With the world’s population ageing at an unprecedented rate, and the ratio of older women to older men expected to increase, there is an urgent need to challenge the structural and policy biases that favour men,” Dr Chen said in a statement.
Countries vary widely in their policies and services to support the wellbeing of older people, but little is known about the differences in the ageing experience for men and women, despite the substantial gender differences in life expectancy and societal roles. To address this, researchers used the latest available data from the OECD and World Bank between 2015 and 2019 for 18 of the 35 OECD countries with sufficient data, to develop a gender-specific ageing index to estimate the degree to which a society enables successful ageing for men and women.
The new index accounts for five domains that capture social and economic factors affecting the quality of ageing: well-being (living longer in good health and life satisfaction); productivity and engagement (engaging productively in society either through paid work or volunteering); equity (how equally resources are distributed across the older population, particularly money and education); cohesion (how well older people are integrated in societies, including the provision of social support and not living alone); and security (both financial security and the degree of physical safety perceived by older people).
The researchers calculated the overall index and individual domain scores (from 0 to 100) for men and women, and compared these scores between genders and countries, with a higher score indicating a successfully ageing society. The findings suggest that gender differences in societal ageing favour men by an average of 9 points over women.
Overall, countries in northern Europe ( Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway), the Netherlands, and Japan do well for both genders (overall index score 66 or above for men vs 55 or above for women), whereas countries in much of eastern and southern European are at the bottom of the rankings (eg, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia, overall score 38 or under vs 31 or under). The USA’s overall performance is average (55 for men vs 47 for women), along with other industrialised western European nations, such as the UK (57 vs 47) and Germany (62 vs 51).
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.