This project uses longitudinal data from all waves and all cohorts of the Health and Retirement Study(MRS) to examine the gender health-survival paradox which proposes that men have better health but worse mortality than women. Gender differences in health and survival have not been studied comprehensively in the U.S. population across multiple components of health using a life course framework and longitudinal data covering a substantial period over the life course. Following this rationale, this project has three major objectives. (1) We will decompose the gender health-survival paradox across multiple components of health including biological risk factors, diseases and conditions, self-rated health, disabilities, loss of functioning, and mortality. We will examine gender differences in prevalence, onset, and recovery rates. Life-table methods will be applied to link health and mortality transitions to reveal the complex temporal linkages among dimensions of health and to determine the lengths of healthy and unhealthy lives among women and men. (2) We will estimate gender differences in the relative influences of individual attributes, diverse life circumstances, and behaviors across the life course on the onset and progression of multiple components of health. Survival, latent growth curve, and latent class modeling techniques will be used to assess gender differences in the influences of multiple fixed and time-varying life course factors (such as childhood health, lifetime SES, health behaviors, health care, psychosocial factors and family and work roles) on adult health trajectories and mortality patterns. The richness of the data on health and life course factors in the MRS provides an unparalleled opportunity to systematically and comprehensively study this question. We will supplement analyses of the MRS with information and parallel studies from the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), Artherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC), and Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA). (3) We will compare gender differences that we identify in the U.S. with those found in other national samples in Project 2 (Denmark) and Project 4 (Japan, Singapore, Philippines), respectively, using comparable variables measuring health and survival outcomes and life course factors.

Public Health Relevance

Findings from this project will provide a deeper understanding of the basis for sex differences in health and survival. We will better understand the importance of differences in family and work involvement, health behaviors (e.g., weight and exercise), and use of medical care and how these affect health differences between men and women. We will clarify the opportunities that society and particularly health professionals have to improve health and survival for males and females.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAG1-ZIJ-7)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Duke University
United States
Zip Code
Tung, Jenny; Archie, Elizabeth A; Altmann, Jeanne et al. (2016) Cumulative early life adversity predicts longevity in wild baboons. Nat Commun 7:11181
Lea, Amanda J; Altmann, Jeanne; Alberts, Susan C et al. (2016) Resource base influences genome-wide DNA methylation levels in wild baboons (Papio cynocephalus). Mol Ecol 25:1681-96
Colchero, Fernando; Rau, Roland; Jones, Owen R et al. (2016) The emergence of longevous populations. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:E7681-E7690
Ahrenfeldt, Linda J; Lindahl-Jacobsen, Rune; Möller, Sören et al. (2016) Differences in Religiousness in Opposite-Sex and Same-Sex Twins in a Secular Society. Twin Res Hum Genet 19:35-46
Ahrenfeldt, Linda; Petersen, Inge; Johnson, Wendy et al. (2015) Academic performance of opposite-sex and same-sex twins in adolescence: A Danish national cohort study. Horm Behav 69:123-31
Fitzpatrick, Courtney L; Altmann, Jeanne; Alberts, Susan C (2015) Exaggerated sexual swellings and male mate choice in primates: testing the reliable indicator hypothesis in the Amboseli baboons. Anim Behav 104:175-185
Lea, Amanda J; Altmann, Jeanne; Alberts, Susan C et al. (2015) Developmental constraints in a wild primate. Am Nat 185:809-21
Galbany, Jordi; Tung, Jenny; Altmann, Jeanne et al. (2015) Canine length in wild male baboons: maturation, aging and social dominance rank. PLoS One 10:e0126415
Ahrenfeldt, Linda J; Skytthe, Axel; Möller, Sören et al. (2015) Risk of Sex-Specific Cancers in Opposite-Sex and Same-Sex Twins in Denmark and Sweden. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 24:1622-8
Franz, Mathias; McLean, Emily; Tung, Jenny et al. (2015) Self-organizing dominance hierarchies in a wild primate population. Proc Biol Sci 282:

Showing the most recent 10 out of 40 publications