Why older men are healthier than older women: Lack of menopause leaves men feeling better (despite threat of dying younger)
Genes which come into play late in life could be the answer to why women suffer poorer health than men in old age – even though they live longer.
A study has revealed going through the menopause causes women to accumulate genes evolved to benefit males, which are bad for female health.
But because men can remain fertile long into old age, their bodies do not suffer the same decline when they pass middle age and they feel better for longer.
Women are still likely to live longer – in the UK their life expectancy is 82.9 years while men’s is 79.2 – but they can expect to be in worse health.
Scientists put the effect down to a genetic ‘sexual conflict’, where different genes benefit or harm the sexes in different ways and are in a constant ‘tug of war’.
Scientists at the University of Exeter did experiments on flies to track how genes change after the female body stops preparing to reproduce – the menopause.
They found because women no longer need to pass on their genes after middle age, they don’t produce as many which would keep them healthy in later life.
Whereas men remain fertile for longer so might need to pass on their genes at any time, meaning they are programmed to stay healthy and prepared to have children.