Do women age later than men? A study explains it

In the middle of the last century, people aged 70 were considered 'elderly', but today, middle-aged and older adults believe that being 70 now is not like it used to be. For them, old age begins later.

This is the main conclusion of a study published in the American Psychological Association journal Psychology and Aging, which suggests that increasing life expectancy and delayed retirement could explain this change in public perception of old age.

As for how gender influences, the study found that women consider that old age begins two years later than men, and this perception has grown over time.

This could be because women generally live longer and also face more stigmatization as they age. Markus Wettstein of Humboldt University of Berlin, who led the research, suggests that women can define old age later to distance oneself from the associated negative connotations.

Change in perception of the onset of old age

In general, according to Wettstein and his team, today's adults feel that old age begins later than people born in previous decades.

Life expectancy has increased, which could contribute to the later onset of old age. Additionally, some aspects of health have improved over time, so people of a certain age who were considered old in the past may no longer be so today,” says Wettstein.

However, the study also found evidence that the tendency to perceive later old age has slowed down in the last two decades.

25 years of survey

The team, made up of researchers from the universities of Stanford, Luxembourg and Greifswald (Germany), examined data from 14,056 participants in the German Health Survey. Aginga study that includes people residing in Germany born between 1911 and 1974.

Participants answered survey questions up to eight times over 25 years (1996-2021), when they were between the ages of 40 and 100.

Additionally, as older generations entered middle and old age, the team recruited new participants (ages 40 to 85).

And although the participants had to answer many questions, the main one of the survey was: “At what age would you describe someone as old?”.

Thus they discovered that, compared to participants born earlier, those born later perceived old age later.

For example, when participants born in 1911 were 65 years old, they set the onset of old age at 71 years old. In contrast, participants born in 1956 said that old age begins at age 74, on average, when they were 65 years old.

However, the researchers also found that the tendency to perceive the onset of old age later has slowed in recent years.

The trend to postpone old age is not linear and may not necessarily continue in the future,” concludes Wettstein.

The older you are, the further away old age is.

The researchers also looked at how the participants' perception of old age changed as they aged.

Thus they found that, as they aged, their perception of the onset of old age receded: at age 64, the average participant said that old age began at 74.7 years; at 74 years old, they said that old age began at 76.8 years; On average, the perception of the onset of old age increased approximately one year for every four or five years of actual aging.

They also discovered that the people who felt loneliest They had worse health and felt older said that old age began earlier, on average, than those who felt less alone, had better health and felt younger.

According to Wettstein, the results may have implications for when and how people prepare for their own aging, as well as how they view older adults in general.

(With information from EFE)