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17-04-2012 | Hospice medicine | Article

Higher care home admission among women due to partner’s age


Free abstract

MedWire News: Study results point toward partner's age as the most likely explanation for gender differences in care home admission.

"There are two explanations for this gender difference," write Mark McCann (Queen's University Belfast, UK) and colleagues in Age and Aging. "The first is that older men provide less care because they are less willing or less equipped to do so, due to sociocultural gender stereotyping… The second is that the difference is due to demographic factors."

To resolve this matter, the researchers used data from the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study, derived from the Northern Ireland Health Card registration system.

A total of 20,830 people aged 65 years and over who were living with their partner in a two-person household were included in the study. Of these people, 45% were women, 31% were aged 75 years or over, and 47% reported a limiting long-term illness (LLTI).

The study showed that women tended to have older partners, while men had younger partners, with an average of 5 years age difference. Women were also more likely to have a partner with LLTIs than the male respondents.

Over 6 years' follow up there were 415 care home admissions among the cohort. The researchers found that women were approximately 40% more likely than men to be admitted to a care home when the cohort members' age and health were controlled for. However, there was no difference in risk for admission after their partner's age was adjusted for.

"This study goes some way to debunking the myth that older men do not do caring to the same extent as their female peers; the primary reason why married women are more likely than married men to be admitted to a care home is because they tend to have older partners," explain the study authors.

"The likelihood of increasing frailty and therefore the inability to provide sufficient support for an older partner rises steeply with age."

They conclude: "The projected narrowing of the gap in life expectancy between men and women may mean that there are more men around to provide such support in future years, hence increasing the informal care resource available for the future older population."

By Chloe McIvor

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