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Eur J Ageing. 2010 Dec;7(4):219-227. Epub 2010 Nov 4.

Gender differences in health of EU10 and EU15 populations: the double burden of EU10 men.

Abstract

This study compares gender differences in Healthy Life Years (HLY) and unhealthy life years (ULY) between the original (EU15) and new member states (EU10). Based on the number of deaths, population and prevalence of activity limitations from the Statistics of Living and Income Conditions Survey (SILC) survey, we calculated HLY and ULY for the EU10 and EU15 in 2006 with the Sullivan method. We used decomposition analysis to assess the contributions of mortality and disability and age to gender differences in HLY and ULY. HLY at age 15 for women in the EU10 were 3.1 years more than those for men at the same age, whereas HLY did not differ by gender in the EU15. In both populations ULY at age 15 for women exceeded those for men by 5.5 years. Decomposition showed that EU10 women had more HLY because higher disability in women only partially offset (-0.8 years) the effect of lower mortality (+3.9 years). In the EU15 women's higher disability prevalence almost completely offset women's lower mortality. The 5.3 fewer ULY in EU10 men than in EU10 women mainly reflected higher male mortality (4.5 years), while the fewer ULY in EU15 men than in EU15 women reflected both higher male mortality (2.9 years) and higher female disability (2.6 years). The absence of a clear gender gap in HLY in the EU15 thus masked important gender differences in mortality and disability. The similar size of the gender gap in ULY in the EU-10 and EU-15 masked the more unfavourable health situation of EU10 men, in particular the much stronger and younger mortality disadvantage in combination with the virtually absent disability advantage below age 65 in men.

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