Gender differences in physical disability among an elderly cohort

Am J Public Health. 2004 Aug;94(8):1406-11. doi: 10.2105/ajph.94.8.1406.


Objectives: We analyzed the role of sociodemographic factors, chronic-disease risk factors, and health conditions in explaining gender differences in disability among senior citizens.

Methods: We compared 1348 men and women (mean age = 79 years) on overall disability and compared their specific activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), and mobility limitations. Analysis of covariance adjusted for possible explanatory factors.

Results: Women were more likely to report limitations, use of assistance, and a greater degree of disability, particularly among IADL categories. However, these gender differences were largely explained by differences in disability-related health conditions.

Conclusions: Greater prevalence of nonfatal disabling conditions, including fractures, osteoporosis, back problems, osteoarthritis and depression, contributes substantially to greater disability and diminished quality of life among aging women compared with men.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged / psychology
  • Aged / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons / education
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Men* / education
  • Men* / psychology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women* / education
  • Women* / psychology