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Sex differences and gender are not solely determined by biology, nor are they entirely sociocultural. The interactions among biological, environmental, sociocultural and developmental influences result in phenotypes that may be more masculine or more feminine.

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Since the s, several studies involving French centenarians have shown a gender paradox in old age. Even if women are more numerous in old age and live longer than men, men are in better physical and cognitive health, are higher functioning, and have superior vision.


If better health should lead to a longer life, why are men not living longer than women? This paper proposes a hypothesis based on the differences in the generational habitus between men and women who were born at the beginning of the 20th century. The concept of generational habitus combines the generation theory of Mannheim with the habitus concept of Bourdieu based on the observation that there exists a way of being, thinking, and doing for each generation. We hypothesized that this habitus still influences many gender-linked behaviours in old age.

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The title of this paper builds on the famous fable of Jean de la Fontaine — The Oak and the Reed in which he compares the two plants facing the natural elements Table 2. The moral of the fable is that the oak remains immovable while the reed bends into the wind, but when the wind becomes stronger, the oak is uprooted while the flexible reed survives. The observation of the gender paradox was made over a ten-year period by Allard and Robine based upon a study of centenarians alive in Ladies seeking sex reed in Indeed, the Ipsen survey — followed centenarians, 95 men and women, including Mme Jeanne Calment a women!

Women were more numerous than men in the centenarian population inand it is still the case today. The figures Table 1 show that women in old age are more numerous than men, with a sex-ratio i. The longevity gap was 6. HTMwe observe that there are 79 women for 4 men, a sex-ratio of Therefore, women live longer and are more numerous than men, and this situation becomes more pronounced with increasing age.

If health, that is, the absence of disease or good functionality, contributes to longevity, then logically old women should ladies seeking sex reed in better health than old men, that is, have less disease and disability. First, let us summarize the of the Ipsen survey, the first French national survey on centenarians.


A thorough standardized clinical examination was performed by the general practitioner GP of the centenarians. According to this medical examination, Regarding vision, Centenarians totally blind or with bad vision were In the Ipsen survey, the cognitive health of ladies seeking sex reed centenarians was tested using the 10 questions of the Pfeiffer test.

This test is a screening test, similar to the MMSE though shorter for possible cognitive impairments and dementia. Men who made no errors ed ECHA involved centenarians or near centenarians and included 55 French men and 77 women.

Similarly, while only The GEHA participants are younger because this study involved nonagenarian siblings.

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The average age of the French male participants was The MMSE average scores were Regarding the ADL, men without difficulties reached Men having difficulties with 4 or more ADL activities ed 9. The literature dealing with the longevity gender gap is considerable.


Each scientific discipline has developed several hypotheses to explain the causes of this phenomenon. Facts come from descriptive sciences, demography, epidemiology, and other fields, and from both the social sciences and the biological sciences. They can be linked with the whole life course of the subjects: we know that men are more affected by violent death war, murder, work-related, traffic accidents, suicide, etc. Accordingly, the survival selection is stronger for men than for women. Many hypotheses come from biological sciences: of course, physiologies of men and women are different.

Genetic, hormonal, and phenotypical differences, such as body size, are well known. Other hypotheses come from psychological and social sciences: behaviours, education, and social roles are obviously gender-related; social inequalities between men and women during childhood and work life could lead to differing social and medical support, and so forth [ 1 ]. Box 1 lists some of the proposed hypotheses suggesting the complexity of the explanations of the differentials in health and longevity between genders.

Increase in life expectancy at birth was accompanied by the emergence of a gap in favour of women which progressively widened ladies seeking sex reed about years: the longevity gender gap. On the other hand, excess of disability ladies seeking sex reed currently observed to the detriment of women, cancelling their longevity advantage: the disability gap.

Many researchers simply conclude that women live longer but in poorer health than men [ 4243 ]. The female survival advantage can be tracked back to conception with a very large ratio of male per female conception leading to the actual ratio of males for females at birth [ 44 ]. A small longevity gap, between 1 and 3 years, in favour of women has been observed in pre-transitional societies in line with studies suggesting the existence of a small female survival advantage in many species possibly due to similar genetic and hormonal processes impacting on cholesterol levels and immune functions and possibly also related to parenting and child rearing.

In fact, the widening of the human gender gap is a very recent phenomenon, probably due to 20th century social and economic transformation, benefiting apparently women more than men.


The widening of the ladies seeking sex reed corresponds to a transitional period between conditions when the greatest danger to life was starvation and infectious diseases to modern conditions when the greatest danger is opulence and high caloric intake leading to metabolic imbalance. The question then is why women can derive a greater or a faster benefit from these changes in living conditions.

Another question is what will be the residual gap when men will possibly have caught up with the transition [ 45 — 47 ]. A of biological and social factors have been put forward to explain gender-specific behaviours, habits and beliefs which can lead to the observed longevity gaps.

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Most researchers focus only on the longevity gap and favour a simple biological or social theory such as the chromosomal, hormonal, oxidative and replicative theories on the biological side, and stress-related job and gender roles, smoking and risk behaviour, social constructionist and feminist theories on the social science side [ 4548 — 50 ].

Only a few look for a coherent explanation working both for the longevity and the disability gaps. Indeed, everything that distinguishes men and women can contribute to explain the longevity and disability gap [ 42 ].


A of these conditions have changed over time and can contribute to explain the widening of the gaps. On the other hand, women have a lower level of functioning. Studies consistently show that a greater percentage of women are disabled compared to men. Although it is not clear whether there are gender differences in the reporting of disability, the prevalence of total disability in older women can be estimated to be approximately 50 percent higher than in men.

At every level of co-morbidity women have greater disability [ 47 ].


Women have been presented as the sicker gender. The use of behavioural indices bed rest, sick leave, of contacts, health care utilisation, self reported morbidity will confound our understanding of morbidity because they actually represent how men and women cope with ladies seeking sex reed rather that representing their true health status.

Depression provides a good example. Despite the fact suicide rates are much higher for men than for women, depression is thought of as a female problem because women are seeking more help for depression. Instead, men tend to engage in private activities, including drinking and drug abuse, deed to alleviate their depression [ 4750 ].

Several hypotheses have been raised on the biological side to explain the gender gaps [ 4651 — 56 ].


But none of the basic biological factors has ificantly changed through the 20th century and cannot contribute to explain the widening of the gaps [ 45 ]. According to Stindl, the longevity gap could be explained by the difference in body size between men and women, needing ladies seeking sex reed different of replications and then leading to a different length of telomeres.

Change in body size through the 20th century would explain the widening of the gaps, men being closer to their replicative limits [ 57 ]. Women may also be better able to cope with overnutrition than men. Indeed, female advantage for survival may arise in prosperous countries by innate ability of the female body to mobilise and transport nutrients for the benefit of the foetus in pregnancy, giving them a better excretory system.

In this case caloric restriction may be more efficient for males [ 58 ]. On the social science side, smoking has been the main explanation for many years.

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According to the tobacco theory, the longevity gap should continue reducing as women approach the same total smoking years as men [ 45 ]. While men and women engage in different social practices to demonstrate their ladies seeking sex reed and femininities respectively, male beliefs and behaviours undermine their health whereas female beliefs and practices reinforce their longevity. In traditional Western societies, men should be independent, strong and tough, taking risks from street violence to skydiving, according to social classrefusing to acknowledge physical discomfort and need of help, and refusing positive health behaviour such as using sunscreen.

Moreover, health care utilization and positive health beliefs or behaviors can be viewed as a form of idealized femininity [ 50 ]. Box 1 A sampling of hypotheses regarding the gender gap in health and longevity.


Eventually the survival advantage for women in a larger percentage of women reaching older ages. For all age groups, more women survive, but despite living longer, they display more comorbid conditions. The mechanisms reported in Box 1 could explain the higher rates of disability among women. However, it is also possible that, for any morbidity level, men remain more active, outwardly displaying less disability, ignoring pain, discomfort, and risk, and this behaviour pattern contributes to a shortening of their life.

It is this last aspect of the gender gap that we aim to explore in this paper from an anthropological perspective. Although some reviews are available on the gender gap as briefly referred to in Box 1there are far fewer ladies seeking sex reed attempt to disentangle the relative contribution of the various biological and social factors and even fewer that examine this issue for the oldest old.

Our goal is not to dissect the utility of the above hypotheses, but to suggest another one, based upon gender-linked behaviour patterns of the oldest old, which can contribute to partially explain the gender paradox in healthy survival ladies seeking sex reed the oldest old. For this purpose, we used qualitative data from comprehensive [ 5 ] and semistructured interviews of centenarians held between and Balard [ 6 ] met more than centenarians or near centenarians people at least 95 years old while undertaking doctoral dissertation research under the framework of the ECHA and GEHA studies.

In addition to these comprehensive talks, Balard performed in-depth interviews [ 9 ] with a group of 14 key informants who were followed for 4 years and were subjected to 5 to 10 in-depth interviews each. All of our informants were aged 95 or older when we met them. Complementary interviews were also performed with their nearest relatives or proxies. Some of the informants died during the fieldwork and were replaced by new informants.

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The key informants were ladies seeking sex reed according to their ability to communicate and their comfort in interacting. Even if people with dementia were not a priori excluded, people in advanced stages of dementia were not interviewed for practical and ethical reasons.

To facilitate the words of the informants, the interviewer opted to introduce himself as a student who meets the elderly to learn from their experience of life. This introduction turned out to be highly facilitating because it produced a dissymmetrical relationship in which the informant was in a position of superiority. In accordance with qualitative research, all interviews with key informants were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim.