Morbidity-Mortality Paradox: Women Live Longer But With More Chronic Illness in Late Life

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kathleen Fischer, PhD Department of Biology UAB | University of Alabama Birmingham Birmingham, AL

Dr. Kathleen Fischer

Kathleen Fischer, PhD
Department of Biology
UAB | University of Alabama Birmingham
Birmingham, AL

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Fischer: Aging is by far the greatest risk factor for most of the chronic, non-communicable diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes). By discovering the basic mechanisms responsible for aging we can find ways to extend healthy and productive life and reduce the burdens of chronic disease and disability experienced by individuals and society. Sex differences in longevity can provide novel insights into the basic biology of aging; however this aspect of aging has been largely ignored.

Demographic data show that women outlive men in every society during every historical period and in every geographic area. In spite of this robust survival advantage, women suffer far greater morbidity late in life—a phenomenon described as the morbidity-mortality paradox. It is not clear whether this is a general mammalian pattern or something unique to humans. Research on sex differences in aging and age-related diseases in humans and a range of species will be crucial if we are going to identify the basic mechanisms responsible for the patterns we observe.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Fischer:
• Mechanisms underlying sex differences in longevity and health are poorly known but can elucidate the basic biology of aging.
• Sex differences in longevity among model organisms are poorly studied and appear to be largely condition-dependent.
• We can use conditions favoring survival in one sex over the other to discover the mechanisms underlying sex differences in longevity and health.
• Among humans, female survival advantage is ubiquitous but women suffer more physical limitations than men in later life.
• Research suggests that different mechanisms and pathways influence longevity and resistance to age-associated diseases in male and female animals.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Dr. Fischer: Understanding the basic biology of aging will lead to interventions that will increase quality of life and decrease age-associated morbidity and mortality. Because there are profound sex differences in human survival and age-associated morbidity—the morbidity-mortality paradox—a thorough understanding of sex differences in aging will be essential if we are going to reduce the burden of chronic, non-communicable diseases. Research on sex differences in aging in a range of species will help us understand shared and unique mechanisms that drive the basic biology of human aging.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Fischer: Biomedical research can and must include female subjects, animals and cells. More specifically, we can use sex differences in longevity and health as a tool to elucidate the fundamental biology of aging.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Steven N. Austad, Kathleen E. Fischer. Sex Differences in Lifespan. Cell Metabolism, 2016; 23 (6): 1022 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.05.019

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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