Towards a better understanding of the "male-female health-mortality paradox": first results of the health survey of the German-Austrian Cloister Study

Angela Wiedemann, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Christian Wegner-Siegmundt, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Paola DiGiulio, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Marc Luy, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

The purpose of this paper is to advance the understanding of the still unexplained male-female health-mortality paradox that is that women live longer than men but experience worse health. Investigating this phenomenon is always difficult since many biological and non-biological factors influence the health and mortality of women and men and the differences between them. The aim of this study is therefore to gain clearer insights to the complex health-mortality relationship by comparing the health of Catholic nuns and monks to women and men of the worldly population. The characteristics of cloistered life provide an ideal setting for this research because socio-economic conditions and many other non-biological factors have no direct impact on the health of female and male order members. Our analyses will be based on the first wave of the Health Survey of the German-Austrian Cloister Study. In total, 1,158 order members (622 nuns and 536 monks) of 16 different orders from Germany and Austria participated to the survey, including 142 religious communities and 69 brothers and sisters who live on their own (response rate 68.8%). Information for the worldly population stems from several surveys, including SHARE, the German Aging Survey, and the Austrian Health Survey. We will base the study on different indicators for the health status, including self-rated general health, limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs) as well as instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), the complete SF-36, and others. This paper will include the first analyses of this specific and new health survey data. We expect important insights to better understand the complex mechanisms behind the male-female health-mortality paradox.

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Presented in Session 55: Health in contexts