Publications

Gender Differences in Functional Status in Middle and Older Age: Are There Any Age Variations?

The present study examines gender differences in changes in functional status after age 50 and how such differences vary across different age groups. Data came from the Health and Retirement Study, involving up to six repeated observations of a national sample of Americans older than 50 years of age between 1995 and 2006. We employed hierarchical linear models with time-varying covariates in depicting temporal variations in functional status between men and women. As a quadratic function, the worsening of functional status was more accelerated in terms of the intercept and rate of change among women and those in older age groups. In addition, gender differences in the level of functional impairment were more substantial in older persons than in younger individuals, although differences in the rate of change between men and women remained constant across age groups. A life course perspective can lead to new insights regarding gender variations in health within the context of intrapersonal and interpersonal differences. Smaller gender differences in the level of functional impairment in the younger groups may reflect improvement of women's socioeconomic status, greater rate of increase in chronic diseases among men, and less debilitating effects of diseases. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT] OBJECTIVES: The present study examines gender differences in changes in functional status after age 50 and how such differences vary across different age groups. METHODS: Data came from the Health and Retirement Study, involving up to six repeated observations of a national sample of Americans older than 50 years of age between 1995 and 2006. We employed hierarchical linear models with time-varying covariates in depicting temporal variations in functional status between men and women. RESULTS: As a quadratic function, the worsening of functional status was more accelerated in terms of the intercept and rate of change among women and those in older age groups. In addition, gender differences in the level of functional impairment were more substantial in older persons than in younger individuals, although differences in the rate of change between men and women remained constant across age groups. DISCUSSION: A life course perspective can lead to new insights regarding gender variations in health within the context of intrapersonal and interpersonal differences. Smaller gender differences in the level of functional impairment in the younger groups may reflect improvement of women's socioeconomic status, greater rate of increase in chronic diseases among men, and less debilitating effects of diseases.