Men aged 50 years and older may have a significantly higher risk of death than women of the same age group, in part due to higher rates of of smoking and heart disease in men, according to a large study of people in 28 countries.
However, research published in Journal of the Canadian Medical Association found that the gap in mortality risk between men and women varied between countries.
“Many studies have examined the potential impact of social, behavioral and biological factors on sex differences in mortality, but few have been able to investigate the potential variation between countries,” said Yu-Tzu Wu of King’s College London and the University from Newcastle in the UK.
“Different cultural traditions, historical contexts, and economic and social development can influence gender experiences in different countries and thus affect men’s and women’s health status variably,” Wu said.
The research examined different socioeconomic, lifestyle, health and social factors that could contribute to the mortality gap between men and women aged 50 and over.
The data included more than 179,000 people in 28 countries and more than half (55%) were women.
The study found that men age 50 and older had a 60 percent higher risk of death than women, partly explained by higher rates of smoking and heart disease in men.
“The effects of sex on mortality must include not only the physiological variation between men and women, but also the social construction of gender, which differs between societies. In particular, the large variation between countries may imply a greater effect of gender than of sex, ”said Wu.
“Although the biology of the sexes is consistent across populations, variation in cultural, social and historical contexts can lead to different life experiences for men and women and variations in the mortality gap between countries,” Wu added.
The researchers noted that the findings are consistent with the literature on life expectancy and mortality rates.
“The heterogeneity of sex differences in mortality between countries may indicate the substantial impact of gender on healthy aging in addition to biological sex, and the crucial contributions of smoking may also vary between different populations,” the study authors noted.
The team recommends that public health policies take into account differences based on sex and gender and the influence of social and cultural factors on health.