Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Women outlive men, partly because culture urges them to seek medical attention


Women still outlive men on the average by several years, and today (Feb. 17), Manoj Jain has a “Being a Patient” column in the Health Section, p F01, of The Washington Post, titled “Want to Live a Bit Longer? Speak Up.” The link is here. This was one of the most frequently accessed Post stories on Feb. 17.

85% of people age 100 or more in this country are women. Genetically, men tend to be programmed for competition, and women for stability and longevity. No, it’s not “fair” as an individualist thinks.

But women are more likely to ask for medical services and perform all the necessary screenings. Men may be more likely to feel “shame” in expecting public medical services beyond a certain age and degree of incapacity, because of cultural values from earlier in life. After all, we used to have a culture of “women and children first.”

The article is sobering when one ponders the idea that government might seek cuts in “earned entitlements” (most of all Medicare) to help control the federal deficits. But such of measure is bound to have gender-sensitive implications. The issue becomes more sensitive because, as life spans increase with people not always maintaining vitality and needing care, we now in many cases have two whole generations “dependent” on those who are still working, causing us to rethink what generates family responsibility.

The Issues Page of the National Center for Men offers some interesting observations. The first point concerns longevity.

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