V. Centenarians

V. Centenarians


Women are frailer than men in old age

Female ageing

It is usually observed that women live more years than men, but with poorer health, a greater degree of disability and a lower quality of life than men.


Biological differences related to gender.

The journey of ageing is different for men and women and it has a biological basis:

  • Hormonal differences. Protective oestrogen in women.
  • Cellular differences. Longer telomeres in women.
  • Immunological differences. Women show greater defence capabilities against infections.

All of these differences lead to increased longevity in women.


Social differences related to gender.

Exposure to adversity throughout one’s life is very different according to gender and it has very important consequences on health. Greater risk-taking in men and hegemonic masculinity entail a higher rate of accidental mortality in men; however, fewer resources, lower education, greater victimisation and domestic violence among women leads to increased disability among them.

In terms of gender in egalitarian societies, where men and women have the same social and economic opportunities and equal civic rights, a convergence in longevity, morbidity and disability is observed.

Life expectancy in Spain from 1900 - 2020:


Source: Fernandez-Ballesteros et al. Aging in Europe, 1999.

Does gender determine two different ways of ageing?

The CSIC General Foundation organised the “Female Ageing” seminar with the aim of reflecting on and discussing some of the issues raised by the different paths of senescence in men and women. Three important scientists in the field of ageing participated in this event and, with their knowledge and experience in their respective disciplines, they addressed the peculiarities and particularities of female ageing and discussed the extent to which gender determines two different ways of ageing. This is what they had to say:


Sacramento Pinazo Hernandis, tenured professor of Social Psychology at Universidad de Valencia.

María Ángeles Durán, ad honorem research professor at the CSIC Institute of Economy, Geography and Demography.

María Victoria Zunzunegui Pastor, honorary professor at the National School of Health, ISCIII.


The Podcast

Ageing in women

This episode explains how women age, whether there are differences with respect to men and whether female ageing exists as such, with the help of Consuelo Borrás, PhD in human physiology from Universidad de Valencia.

Ageing in women

Thank you:

Consuelo Borrás, María del Pilar Parrilla and Lucía Ramírez

although with
poorer health,
live more years
than men