Men at high risk of early death, women face more poor health: Lancet study

New Delhi, May 2: Men are at higher risk of premature death than women, but females tend to spend more of their lifetime in poor health, according to a new global study published in the journal Lancet Public Health on Thursday.

The findings, based on data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021 to compare the total number of life years lost to illness and premature death, reveal stark differences between females and males across the 20 leading causes of disease burden over the past 30 years. It also underscores the need for gender-responsive approaches to health.

Musculoskeletal conditions, mental health conditions, and headache disorders, which though non-fatal lead to poor health, were found to be more prevalent among women. These conditions increase with age and as women tend to live longer than males, they face higher levels of illness and disability throughout their lives.

On the other hand, men were found to be affected by Covid-19, road injuries, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory and liver diseases — all leading to their premature death.

“One key point the study highlights is how females and males differ in many biological and social factors that fluctuate and, sometimes, accumulate over time, resulting in them experiencing health and disease differently at each stage of life and across world regions,” said Luisa Sorio Flor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington, US.

“The challenge now is to design, implement, and evaluate sex- and gender-informed ways of preventing and treating the major causes of morbidity and premature mortality from an early age and across diverse populations,” Dr Luisa added.

Ischaemic heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic kidney disease, sex differences tend to affect men at young ages and widen over the life course. Covid, the leading cause of health loss in 2021, affected 45 per cent more men than females.

“The timing is right for this study and calls to action — not only because of where the evidence is now, but because Covid-19 has starkly reminded us that sex differences can profoundly impact health outcomes,” Luisa said.