Dr. Carol H. Gold, Penn State research scientist and study leader, says, "In our study of older brother/sister twin pairs, we found that using a three-level severity of illness scale paints a much richer picture of gender differences in health than the usual life threatening vs. non-life threatening categories usually reported. With this more complex approach we found an important category of illnesses and conditions with no gender differences the somewhat life-threatening health problems and this category includes the largest number of health problems of all.
"This category is a very critical one to examine when trying to disentangle the complexity of gender differences and similarities in health and aging. Perhaps it is also a reminder to focus not only on gender differences," she adds.
Gold explains that the study is the first to employ a matched sample of older brother/sister twin pairs to examine gender differences in health during aging. The team's analysis found that, on average, both brothers and sisters had the same number of illnesses, about 1.5, from the somewhat life-threatening category. The numbers of conditions that the brothers and sister had from the other, smaller, categories differed. For example, on average, the sisters had 2 not-at-all life threatening conditions while the brothers had 1.6. The sisters had about 0.4 very life-threatening conditions and the brothers had 0.7. Overall, in all categories, the sisters had about four conditions and the brothers about 3, on average.
The study is detailed in a paper, "Gender and Health: A Study of Older Unlike-Sex Twins," published in the current (May) issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences. The aut
Contact: Barbara Hale