Sex and gender disparities in the epidemiology and outcomes of chronic kidney disease

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2018 Mar;14(3):151-164. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2017.181. Epub 2018 Jan 22.


Improved understanding of sex and gender-specific differences in the aetiology, mechanisms and epidemiology of chronic kidney disease (CKD) could help nephrologists better address the needs of their patients. Population-based studies indicate that CKD epidemiology differs by sex, affecting more women than men, especially with regard to stage G3 CKD. The effects of longer life expectancy on the natural decline of glomerular filtration rate (GFR) with age, as well as potential overdiagnosis of CKD through the inappropriate use of GFR equations, might be in part responsible for the greater prevalence of CKD in women. Somewhat paradoxically, there seems to be a preponderance of men among patients starting renal replacement therapy (RRT); the protective effects of oestrogens in women and/or the damaging effects of testosterone, together with unhealthier lifestyles, might cause kidney function to decline faster in men than in women. Additionally, elderly women seem to be more inclined to choose conservative care instead of RRT. Dissimilarities between the sexes are also apparent in the outcomes of CKD. In patients with predialysis CKD, mortality is higher in men than women; however, this difference disappears for patients on RRT. Although access to living donor kidneys among men and women seems equal, women have reduced access to deceased donor transplantation. Lastly, health-related quality of life while on RRT is poorer in women than men, and women report a higher burden of symptoms. These findings provide insights into differences in the underlying pathophysiology of disease as well as societal factors that can be addressed to reduce disparities in access to care and outcomes for patients with CKD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / epidemiology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / physiopathology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / therapy
  • Renal Replacement Therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Women's Health*