Understanding the Declining Female Mortality Advantage in the United States: An Assessment Using Prospective Data

Sarah A. Burgard, University of Michigan
Michael Elliott, University of Michigan
James S. House, University of Michigan
Neil Mehta, Emory University
Katherine Y. Lin, University of Michigan
Elizabeth Ela, University of Michigan

Since about 1980, the longstanding female life expectancy advantage has stalled in the United States. While secular improvements have continued, U.S. women have lost ground relative to women in comparably wealthy nations and relative to American males. Evidence for this pattern is striking, but most work on this topic has examined aggregate data. While key contributing factors have been identified, including smoking and obesity among others, aggregate level data has not been available for all potentially relevant explanatory factors. We build on these findings with a cohort of 3617 U.S. adults first interviewed in 1986 and followed up for about twenty years, with detailed information about behaviors, stressful exposures, and health from up to four additional interviews. Initial results demonstrate the stalled female mortality advantage in individual-level data, show the relevance of smoking, indicate stronger patterns of gender convergence among non-whites, and suggest a role for employment in these patterns.

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Presented in Session 110: Race, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Health and Mortality