Gender Differences in Functional Health and Mortality Among the Chinese Elderly: Testing an Exposure Versus Vulnerability Hypothesis

Res Aging. 2009 May 1;31(3):361-388. doi: 10.1177/0164027508330725.


In this study, the authors focused on older adults in Beijing with three objectives: to examine gender differences in functional health and mortality at the end of a five-year study period, controlling for initial functional health; to determine the extent to which these differences were a function of exposure versus vulnerability to risk factors; and to analyze the relative importance of social, economic, and psychological risk factors in explaining gender differences. The results show that women were more likely to survive and to be functionally dependent at follow-up compared with men among those functionally independent at baseline. No significant differences among those who were initially dependent were apparent. Differential vulnerability to risk factors, more so than exposure, explained the variation in health outcomes across gender. Smoking, a lack of formal education, a lack of health insurance, a low sense of control, stressful events, and rural living played large roles in explaining the differences.