Men still lag in longevity studies

  • 2010-03-25
  • By Ella Karapetyan

Active living means healthier living in old age.

TALLINN - There are great variations between different parts of the world in life expectancy, and these variations are mostly caused by differences in public health policies, medical care and diet. Much of the excess mortality (higher death rates) in poorer nations is due to war, starvation, and disease (AIDS, Malaria, etc.). Over the past 200 years, countries with Black or African populations have generally not had the same improvements in mortality rates that have been enjoyed by populations of European origin. Even in countries with a majority of white people, such as the U.S., Britain, Ireland and France, black people tend to have shorter life expectancies than their white counterparts. Climate may also have an effect, and the way data is collected may also influence the figures.

There are also significant differences in life expectancy between men and women in most countries, with women typically outliving men by around five years. Economic circumstances also affect life expectancy.
Scholars claim that more developed regions of the world generally have higher life expectancies than less developed regions. The regional variation is quite dramatic.

Statistics show that women almost always have higher life expectancies than men.  Currently, the worldwide life expectancy for all people is 64.3 years, but for males it’s 62.7 years and for females life expectancy is 66 years, a difference of more than three years.
The reasons for the difference between male and female life expectancy are not fully understood. While some scholars argue that women are biologically superior to men and thus live longer, others argue that men are employed in more hazardous occupations (factories, military service, etc). Moreover, men generally drive, smoke and drink more than women - men are also more often murdered.

Life expectancy changes as one gets older. By the time a child reaches its first year, their chances of living longer increase. By late adulthood, one’s chances of survival to a very old age are quite good.
Being seriously overweight may reduce a person’s life expectancy even more than smoking, according to a report by 250 leading scientists. According to the Foresight Report on obesity in the United Kingdom, having a body mass index higher than 30 decreases a person’s life expectancy by an average of 9 years. Men with a body mass index higher than 45, however, have their life expectancy reduced by 13 years. In contrast, being a smoker reduces life expectancy by an average of 10 years.
Vitamin C Boosts Life Expectancy and Removes Plaque from Blood Vessels

Some leading researchers say that high intake of vitamin C is shown to improve life expectancy by six years. Not only does vitamin C help prevent the diseases that shorten life, but the vitamin itself has life sustaining properties. Vitamin C is known to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. It repairs blood vessels and helps reduce heart diseases.

Small Amount of Wine Daily Boosts Life Expectancy
Drinking alcohol in excess is associated with a host of health problems, including an increased risk of certain cancers, liver disorders and even brain damage. But new research published in the online version of the “Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,” concludes that up to just half a glass of wine daily can have remarkable health benefits. In fact, at least for men, drinking a small amount of wine may boost life expectancy by five years.

During the four decade-long study, some 1,130 of the men died and about half these deaths were apparently caused by cardiovascular disease. But while analyzing the data, the researchers found that light long-term alcohol consumption of all types - up to 20 grams (g) a day - boosted life expectancy by around two extra years compared to drinking no alcohol at all. However, life expectancy was slightly lessened for the men who drank more than 20 g per day.
Another finding could justify wine lovers offering a toast to long life: the men who drank only wine, and less than half a glass a day, lived approximately 2.5 years longer than those who drank beer and spirits. And they lived about five years longer than those who drank no alcohol at all.

A study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has revealed that the mortality rate of people who played golf was 40 percent lower than their non-golfing counterparts of the same gender, age and socioeconomic status. This corresponds to a higher life expectancy of 5 years.
The Karolinska Institutet is said to be one of the top medical universities in Europe, and its Nobel Assembly awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine each year. The study, which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, had collated and analyzed information from 300,000 golfers in Sweden. Overall, the impact on life expectancy was found to be higher among blue-collar workers, as supposed to white-collar ones.

Exercise and Longevity
Many studies have already drawn the link between physical activity and longevity. For example, findings from an analysis of data from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (1997-2004), conducted by the Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in June 2007, provided evidence that overall levels of physical activity, including both exercise and general lifestyle habits (such as cycling for transportation), was an important factor for life expectancy.

Another study conducted by the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, Japan and published in the Annals of Epidemiology in July 2008, looked at data collected from over 83,000 Japanese men. It concluded that higher levels of daily physical activity, whether from one’s occupation, daily chores or recreation, could help to prevent premature death.
This, however, may well be one of the first times, if not the first time, that the link between longevity and a specific form of physical activity, in this case golf, was so closely studied. And, as far as golf is concerned, it may be more than just the physical exercise which provides the life-extending health benefits. Professor Anders Ahlbom, one of the researchers in the study, said, “A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometers, something which is known to be good for health.”

“People play golf into old age, and there are also positive social and psychological aspects to the game that can be of help,” he added.

This study certainly provides good news for avid golfers, as well as extra motivation for those considering taking their first swing. In any case, it is a good idea for all of us, young and old, men and women, healthy or unwell, to start a regular regime of physical exercise. Not only would that help to extend our quantity of life, it would also improve our quality of life, in the form of better health and vitality.

According to Statistics Estonia, one of the most important population development indicators - life expectancy - has shown an increasing trend in Estonia in the case of women as well as men during the last decade. Due to a higher life expectancy, women outnumber men at the age of 65 by two times.

In 2008, life expectancy in Estonia was the highest of all time - reaching 79.2 years for women and 68.6 years for men. During the last ten years, life expectancy has increased by 3.5 years for women and by four years for men. Regardless of the increase, life expectancy of the population in Estonia remains lower than in most European Union countries. In the EU, life expectancy, on average, was 82.2 years for women and 76.1 years for men in 2008. In all European countries, women live longer than men, but in Estonia the gender difference in life expectancy - nearly 11 years - is one of the largest in the European Union.

It is important to note that life expectancy is usually regarded as the life expectancy at birth. Later on, this indicator will be influenced by infant mortality, accidents occurring to children and to the working-age population as well as other premature deaths. Therefore, in statistical terms, a 65-year-old man can expect to live 13.6 years instead of 3.6 years. In the same way, women aged 65 can expect to live 19 years and not 14, according to the 2008 indicators.
The interactive population pyramid, recently published on Statistics Estonia’s Web site, presents the population change in Estonia from 1990, with projections up to 2050. the projections show the life expectancy of women will reach 80.4 years, and that of men 78.4 years. While the life expectancy of women was already, in 2008, close to the projection of 2050, men still lag behind by nearly 10 years of life.

At the same time, one can clearly see the change in the age structure and the noticeable aging of the population in Estonia. As a result of the increasing life expectancy and decreasing birth rate, the share of the elderly constantly grows. In 40 years’ time, persons aged 65 and older will account for a quarter of the population; in 1990 their share was two times smaller.
Comparison of the proportions of men and women in the population reveals that the number of women was 8 percent larger than that of men in 2009. Although more boys than girls are born every year, women outnumber men starting from the age of 35. This is a result of premature deaths of men, mainly caused by accidents and injuries. Due to a higher life expectancy, the number of women aged 65 and over surpasses the number of men of the same age by two times. According to projections, the gender balance of the population is going to improve, and the surplus of women will start from the age of their early sixties, instead of 35 by 2050.

It is important that the increase in life expectancy should not involve a deterioration of health. Healthy Life Years is an important indicator to monitor the health status of a population. Relying on the statistics for 2008, women live without disability for 57 years, and men for 53 years in Estonia. This indicator is one of the lowest compared to other countries of the European Union.
Commenting on the latest statistics on life expectancy in Estonia, Finance Minister Jurgen Ligi said that it is better to die at the right time. “It is much harder for women since they must live another 11 years without a man. To be alone for 11 years is much more difficult than to die at the right time,” said Ligi.

He said that if Estonian men want to live longer, they should drink and smoke less and not take silly risks. “But we have encouraging results from fewer traffic deaths. At present, about five times fewer are killed in traffic accidents than at [peak] levels,” he said. o