Journal Article

A cross-national study of the gender gap in health among older adults in India and China: similarities and disparities

Oksuzyan, A., Singh, P. K., Christensen, K., Jasilionis, D.

The Gerontologist (2017)


Keywords: China, India, cross-sectional surveys, gender, health


Background and Objectives: The present cross-sectional study examines gender differences in three major health measures among older adults in India and in China, and investigates whether these differences can be explained by major socio-demographic and health risk characteristics.

Design and Methods: The study included 7,150 individuals in India and 13,367 individuals in China aged 50-plus who participated in the WHO Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health in 2007-2010. Logistic regression models for self-reported health (SRH) and ordinary least square regression models for grip strength and cognitive function were used to investigate gender differences in health.

Results: A consistent female disadvantage was found in India and in China for all three health measures. Compared to their male counterparts, women in the Indian and the Chinese samples had, respectively, 38% (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 1.22, 1.56) and 36% (95%CI: 1.25, 1.48) higher risk of reporting poor SRH, 9.56 kg (95%CI: 9.91, 9.22) and 11.95 kg (95%CI: 12.29, 11.62) lower grip strength, and 3.64 (95%CI: 3.96, 3.32) and 1.99 (95%CI: 2.28, 1.71) lower cognitive scores. The magnitude of the female disadvantage in poor SRH and in grip strength changed very little when adjustments were made for marital status, education, place of residence, smoking status, height, and number of chronic conditions; but these characteristics accounted for about 50% of the gender gap in cognitive function.

Discussion and Implications: In these study populations, major socio-demographic and health risk characteristics accounted for very small parts of the gender differences in health, except in cognition.