The current analysis examines sex differences in longitudinal changes in genetic and environmental influences on three measures of subjective health.
Sample includes 7372 twins (mean intake age = 73.22) with up to 8 waves of measurement (mean = 3.1). Three subjective health (SH) items were included: general self-rated health (SRH), health compared to age peers (COMP), and impact of health on activities (ACT) which previous research shows capture different frames of reference.
Latent growth curve modeling indicated significant differences across gender and frame of reference in trajectories of change with age and in genetic and environmental contributions to change. Men have higher mean scores on all three SH measures, indicating better SH, but there were no sex differences in pattern of change with age. Accelerating declines with age were found for SRH and ACT, whereas COMP improved with age. Results indicated more genetic variance for women than men, but declining genetic variance for both after age 70. Increasing shared environmental variance with increasing age was also found for both sexes.
As aging triggers a re-evaluation of the meaning of “good health,” physical aspects of health may become less important and shared cultural conceptions of health may become more relevant. This change in conceptions of good health may reflect both aging and the change in composition of the elderly population as a result of selective survival.