Gender differences in care home admission risk: partner’s age explains the higher risk for women
McCann, M., Donnelly, M., & O'Reilly, D. (2012) Age and Ageing, 41(3), 416-419. 17 April 2012. [NILS]
Background: older women have a higher risk of care home admission than men, this difference remains even after accounting for variations in health. A likely reason for this is the difference in social support provided by spouses. Older men may provide less care for their wives than women do for their husbands.
Objectives: this study assessed two competing explanations for this. First, older men are less willing to undertake traditionally feminine caring roles; secondly, older men are less physically able to provide care.
Design: the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS), a representative (c28%) sample of the Northern Ireland population.
Findings: a total of 20,830 couples were followed over 6 years, with 415 care home admissions among NILS cohort members. Women had a higher admission risk after controlling for cohort members' age and health; however, there was no gender difference after adjusting for partner's age.
Conclusion: these results suggest that advanced age and physical frailty explain why men provide less care for their partners than women do; rather than being unwilling to undertake a caring role. The narrowing gap in life expectancy between men and women may have an effect on the future demand for formal care.