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Men are aging faster than women, but the younger generation is closing the gap – Neuroscience News

Summary: Researchers have explained why the gap in life expectancy and aging is narrowing between men and women.

Source: University of Jyvaskyla

In the Western world, life expectancy increased rapidly in the 20th century, but women still have longer life expectancies than men. In Finland, women live an average of five years longer than men.

The gender gap was widest in the 1970s, when life expectancy at birth was almost 10 years higher for women than for men. However, in recent decades, this gap has gradually narrowed.

The difference between the sexes is also found in biological aging, as revealed by a study recently published in Gerontology journals: series A.

The study examined whether there are differences in biological aging between men and women and whether the potential differences can be explained by lifestyle factors. These differences have been studied in young and older adults.

Several epigenetic clocks have been used as measures of biological aging. Epigenetic clocks make it possible to study lifespan-related factors during an individual’s lifetime. They provide an estimate of biological age in years using DNA methylation levels determined from a blood sample.

“We found that men are biologically older than women of the same chronological age, and the difference is considerably greater in older participants,” says Anna Kankaanpää, doctoral student at the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Science. sports and health.

More frequent smoking in men explained the gender gap in aging in older twins, but not in young adult twins. In addition, men’s larger body size explained a small part of the gender gap in the two age groups.

“We observed a gender difference in the rate of aging, which was not explained by lifestyle factors,” says Kankaanpää.

Several epigenetic clocks have been used as measures of biological aging. Image is in public domain

“In our study, we also used a fairly rare study design and compared the rate of aging in opposite-sex twin pairs. A similar difference was also observed among these twin pairs. The male brother was approximately one a year older biologically than her co-twin.

“These couples grew up in the same environment and share half of their genes. The difference can be explained, for example, by sex differences in genetic factors and the beneficial effects of estrogen, a female sex hormone, on health,” says Kankaanpää.

The results help to understand lifestyle behaviors and gender differences related to biological aging and life expectancy. The results suggest that the decline in smoking among men partly explains why the gender gap in life expectancy has narrowed in recent decades.

The research was carried out in collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Helsinki. The subjects were younger (21 to 42 years old) and older (50 to 76 years old) adult twins from the Finnish twin cohort. Lifestyle factors including education, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity were measured using questionnaires.

About this aging research news

Author: Press office
Source: University of Jyvaskyla
Contact: Press office – University of Jyväskylä
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Open access.
“Do Epigenetic Clocks Explain Gender Differences in Lifespan? A Cross-Sectional Twin Study” by Anna Kankaanpää et al. Gerontology journals: series A


Do epigenetic clocks provide explanations for sex differences in lifespan? A cross-sectional twin study

See also

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The gender gap in life expectancy has narrowed in Finland over the past 4-5 decades; however, on average, women still live longer than men. Epigenetic clocks are markers of biological aging that predict lifespan. In this study, we investigated the mediating role of lifestyle factors on the association between gender and biological aging in younger and older adults.


Our sample is composed of younger and older twins (21‒42 years old, not = 1477; 50‒76 years old, not = 763) including 151 complete pairs of younger opposite-sex twins (21‒30 years old). Blood-based DNA methylation was used to calculate epigenetic age acceleration by 4 epigenetic clocks as a measure of biological aging. Trajectory modeling was used to investigate whether the association between gender and biological aging is mediated by lifestyle factors, i.e., education, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity.


Compared to women, men were biologically older and, in general, had less healthy lifestyle habits. The effect of sex on biological aging was partly mediated by body mass index and, in older twins, by smoking. Gender was directly associated with biological aging, and the association was stronger in older twins.


Previously reported sex differences in lifespan are also evident in biological aging. The declining prevalence of smoking among men is a plausible explanation for the narrowing of the gender gap in life expectancy. Data generated by epigenetic clocks can help estimate the effects of lifestyle and environmental factors on aging and predict the aging of future generations.

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