The existence of fart jokes, belching contests and bra-snapping would appear proof-positive that boys are less mature than girls during childhood and adolescence. Now science validates it, with UK researchers discovering that girls tend to optimize brain connections earlier, so they generally mature faster than boys in certain cognitive and emotional areas.
But while women have the edge in growing up, how do we compare to men when it comes to growing old—something with which we boomers are getting all too familiar? Here’s a look at some of the differences between the sexes:
Women live longer, perhaps because we have no balls
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the life expectancy of American women is nearly five years greater than that of men (81.2 years vs. 76.3 years). In fact, women live longer than men in every country of the world by an average of 4.5 years, according to UN data.
Numerous studies have suggested women live longer than men primarily because we make healthier lifestyle choices—which would suggest that men still haven’t wised up as they’ve gotten older.
But a Korean scientist recently analyzed records of 19th century court life, including information about 81 eunuchs whose testicles were removed before puberty. His analysis revealed that the eunuchs not only lived about 20 years longer than other men in the court, but they were 130 times more likely to celebrate their 100th birthday than the average man living in Korea at the time. The conclusion? People without testicles live longer. So now you know.
Men (still) think about sex more…
In a Web MD article, the lead author of a major survey on sexual practices contends that the majority of men (presumably those with testicles) under age 60 think about sex at least once a day (that’s all?), while only about a quarter of women in that demographic say they think about it that often. As we age, both men and women think about sex less—but men still fantasize about it twice as often as women. The prevalence of unsolicited d*ck pics sent via the internet would tend to affirm this, don’t you think?
…but sex is more dangerous for older men’s health
A study of participants in the National Social Life, Health and Aging project at the University of Chicago, however, raises the possibility that sexually active older men are at significantly greater risk for heart attacks, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems than their less sexually active male peers. But for older women, the study shows that “extremely pleasurable or satisfying” sex appears to protect against cardiovascular disease. How’s that for irony?
Male skin less susceptible to signs of aging
Men’s testosterone levels make their skin about 25% thicker than a woman’s, according to the International Dermal Institute. Men also have more collagen density, rougher skin texture and more natural skin moisture, helping to slow the effects of aging. Both sexes lose collagen at about the same rate after age 30, but that rate spikes in women for about five years after menopause, then slows—while men’s skin ages more gradually. Fortunately (for the cosmetics industry, anyway), we women spend billions on anti-aging skin care products to help even the score.
Different vulnerability to neurological disease
Science has found gender differences in our susceptibility to certain neurological diseases that come with age. For example, Parkinson’s disease is more prevalent in men, and they tend to be diagnosed with it earlier than women. Conversely, women seem to be more quickly and adversely affected by Alzheimer’s disease. There are no clear-cut answers why, but a recent study revealed that deep (subcortical) structures in the brain appear to age faster in men than women, possibly explaining why men are more susceptible to diseases, like PD, that affect these parts of the brain. There’s nothing funny about this.
Men lose it more than women (hair, that is)
Both men and women tend to lose some quantity and thickness of their hair as they age, related to heredity and shifting hormone levels. Pattern baldness affects many more men than women, however, with 80% of men showing signs of male pattern baldness (when hair thins and recedes to that “horse shoe” shape) by age 70. With female pattern baldness, hair thins mainly on the top and crown, and rarely progresses to total baldness, as in men. Women also find that as the hair on our heads thins, we start sprouting coarse facial hairs. Which is why every woman 50+ should own a magnifying mirror and tweezers.
Women grow happier as they age…
After age 50, women seem better able than men to embrace aging and handle the challenges it presents. Yale psychology professor Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema conducted a study that led her to conclude women’s natural strengths—empathy, listening ability, patience—help us tackle the problems that arise as we age, while men showed less inclination to use these coping skills, leaving them more vulnerable to depression and anxiety in the face of difficulty.
In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Nolen-Hoeksema said, “There is increasing evidence that most women feel a greater sense of fulfillment, self-actualization, reaching their peak—whatever you want to call it—as they grow older.” That’s a good thing, since we tend to live longer than men to begin with.
…but male centenarians are healthier than females
We women are really going to need those coping skills if we make it to 100. While female centenarians outnumber men by 4 to 1, women are more likely to suffer from serious health conditions than men who reach that age, according to UK research that studied more than 11,000 people who turned 100 between 1995 and 2013. Like guys’ “swimmers” that fertilize our eggs, only strong and hardy men make it to the 100 club, I guess.
Regardless of which sex ages “better,” the fact remains that none of us is getting out of here alive. Each day is a gift—and for us baby boomers, there are likely fewer of them ahead of us than behind us. So live life fully and forget your age. And remember:
Growing older’s not
so bad when you consider
What do you think? How do you feel about aging? Have you grown more comfortable in your own skin as you’ve gotten older? Would you turn back the clock if you could? Are you “not going gentle into that good night?” Please share…