To evaluate the gender-specific impact of social exclusion on the mortality of older Japanese adults, we performed a prospective data analysis using the data of the Aichi Gerontological Evaluation Study (AGES). In AGES, we surveyed functionally independent residents aged 65 years or older who lived in six municipalities in Aichi prefecture, Japan. We gathered baseline information from 13,310 respondents in 2003. Information on mortality was obtained from municipal databases of the public long-term care insurance system. All participants were followed for up to 4 years. We evaluated social exclusion in terms of the combination of social isolation, social inactivity, and relative poverty. Cox's proportional hazard model revealed that socially excluded older people were at significantly increased risk (9-34%) for premature mortality. Those with simultaneously relative poverty and social isolation and/or social inactivity were 1.29 times more likely to die prematurely than those who were not socially excluded. Women showed stronger overall impact of social exclusion on mortality, whereas relative poverty was significantly associated with mortality risks for men. If these associations are truly causal, social exclusion is attributable to 9000-44,000 premature deaths (1-5%) annually for the older Japanese population. Health and social policies to mitigate the issue of social exclusion among older adults may require gender-specific approaches.
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