Older Women with MS Age Better Than Their Male Counterparts, Canadian Survey Finds

Janet Stewart, MSc avatar

by Janet Stewart, MSc |

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Older men with multiple sclerosis (MS) have more harmful lifestyles than older women with the disease, concludes the Canadian Survey of Health, Lifestyle and Aging with Multiple Sclerosis. Treatment for depression could go a long way to promoting more healthy lifestyles for all older MS patients, authors suggest.

The study, “Women’s and Men’s Differing Experiences of Health, Lifestyle, and Aging with Multiple Sclerosis,” appeared in the International Journal of MS Care.

The survey followed 743 Canadian MS patients (577 women, 166 men) for at least 20 years. It examined gender differences in health, socioeconomics, mood and lifestyle. The average age of respondents was 65 years.

Researchers assessed individual health characteristics like level of functioning and MS experiences — employment, fatigue, perceived health and satisfaction with health services. Other illnesses occurring at the same time as MS were grouped as cardiovascular, mental illness or musculoskeletal.

There were no differences in age, years with MS, fatigue, disability or social support between men and the women surveyed. However, older men responding to the survey had a worse opinion of their overall health, displayed lower resilience and participated less in life roles than did older women. Men experienced more depressive symptoms, while women reported more anxiety.

Depression predicted health perception in both women and men more than other factors such as household participation, disability, resilience and fatigue  in women, and physical activity, financial flexibility and alcohol use in men.

“Older men exhibit poorer adaptation to aging with MS than do older women, and their health and lifestyle behaviors may place them at greater risk for health deterioration,” researchers wrote.

“The most critical predictor of health in both sexes was depression, a condition whose treatment could induce a cascade of protective health behaviors, such as adherence to a healthy diet, exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, and more social engagement,” the team concluded. “These findings suggest that older men and women with MS require advice and intervention tailored specifically to their needs.”


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