Background: Women with disabling conditions experience health disparities relative to nondisabled women, but few studies have compared women and men with disabling conditions.
Objectives: To investigate gender differences in physical functioning and emotional health among individuals with long-term disabling conditions, that is, neuromuscular disease, multiple sclerosis, postpolio syndrome, or spinal cord injury.
Method: From a mailed survey of 1,862 adults with long-term disabling conditions, we used the 12-item Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) physical functioning to assess physical limitations in activities and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for emotional health and severity of secondary conditions (rated 0-10). Least square means models were used to estimate marginal mean PHQ-9 scores and severity of secondary conditions by age and sex adjusted for diagnosis. Generalized linear models were performed to determine the association between sex/gender and PROMIS physical function t score, controlling for age and diagnostic group with potential Age × Sex interaction.
Results: Women reported more fatigue than men (5.48 ± .08 vs. 5.13 ± .11, p = .01) and more pain (3.99 ± .08 vs. 3.67 ± .11, p = .03). Women aged 45-54 had higher average PHQ-9 scores than men aged 45-54 (M = 8.05, SE = .33 vs. M = 6.35, SE = .42, p < .007) adjusted for diagnosis. Younger women had higher physical functioning than younger men while older women had lower physical functioning than older men adjusted for diagnostic group (p = .0003 for the interaction term).
Conclusion: Middle-aged and older women with long-term disabling conditions experience considerable health disparities in physical functioning and emotional health compared with middle-aged and older men with similar conditions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).