How Is Aging Different for Men and Women?

A Look at Hormones, Life Expectancy, and Bodily Changes

There's no question that men and women age differently. Obviously, genetics, lifestyle, nutrition, and environment affect how people of either gender age, but the rate and way that men and women age is completely different.

Not only do the male and female body respond differently to aging, but the male and female psychology also differs greatly. Taken together, aging for men and women can be an entirely different experience. Let's look at the main ways aging is different for men and women.

Senior couple dancing in living room
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Life Expectancy

It's a simple fact that, almost everywhere in the world, women live longer than men. Some think that the reason for a longer life expectancy for women is that men often participate in more dangerous activities and tend to have more dangerous occupations, like being in the armed forces.

That explains some, but not all, of the differences. Other explanations include the fact that women are more likely to see a doctor and possibly be diagnosed earlier with health problems. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that women live years longer than men worldwide.

In the United States, the average life expectancy is 78.6 years for all genders combined. For women, it's 81.1 years and for men, it's 76.1 years.

Sex

Sexual function and aging are very different for men and women. A woman's body responds to aging dramatically with menopause while a man's body responds more gradually. Over time, each person must deal with the changes in their sexual function brought about by aging, such as vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction.

Hormones

Different hormones are affected by aging for men and women as they age. For women, changes in estrogen levels with aging are a major concern. This is especially true during menopause and after. For men, testosterone level changes are the dominant hormonal component of aging.

Brain Aging

Brain aging is also different for men and women. Men who are overweight, diagnosed with diabetes, or have had a stroke are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment. Women, however, are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment if they are dependent on others for daily tasks and lack a strong social network.

Centenarians and Aging

As for people who make it to 100 or beyond, called centenarians, men and women can both get to this age, though women are more likely to make it than men. However, there are some differences between men and women who make it to age 100. These statistics are based on a classic 2003 study:

  • 24% of male centenarians and 43% of female centenarians fit the profile of “survivors.” These are people who had a diagnosis of at least one of the age-related illnesses before age 80.
  • 32% of men and 15% of women over 100 fit the profile of "escapers" or people who did not have any major health conditions.
  • 44% of men and 42% of women over 100 are "delayers" or people who did not have a major diagnosis until after the age of 80.

Men who make it to 100 are much more likely to be "lucky" at escaping age-related health issues than women, who seem to be able to endure long-term illnesses better.

Health Screenings

The health screenings and tests recommended to catch disease and illness early differ by sex. Use the tool at Healthfinder.gov to see which are recommended for you. People who have female reproductive organs need screening for cancers that affect them, and the same is true for people with male reproductive organs. Check it out and be sure to schedule your appointments.

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