Health Topics

Healthy Living

January 2010
Who is Healthier Man or Woman
Prof Adrian Kennedy

This conclusion comes from a research undertaken by the Apollo Hospitals, Wellness Dept during the period 2005 to 2009, covering 31,979 males and 15,776 females.

Health Indices Male Female Overweight
The average Indian male is found to be 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 73 kgs. 58.61 percent males were found to be overweight by these criteria. The average Indian female stands 5 feet 3 inch tall, weighing 64 kgs – and 65.95 percent was thus found to be overweight. Females also have more body fat than males: 46 percent females have excess abdominal body fat, as compared to 40 percent males.
Overweight 58% 65%
Physically unfit 69% 72%
High Stress 12.26% 12%
Alcohol/Smoking 25% 3%
Medication 36% 32%
Cardiac Risk 56% 50%
Cancer Risk 9% 3%
Health Score 65/100 68/100

Food Habits

The Indian female certainly has better food habits than her male counterpart. 31 percent females are vegetarian (while only 24 percent males are) and 69 percent eat fruits and salads daily (as opposed to 65 percent males). The Indian female is also less guilty of bad food habits. Only 23 percent females have a high fat diet whereas the percentage of males who have it is 28. Only 20 percent females were found to indulge in sweets and puddings often, as opposed to 24 percent males. Females don't snack frequently either, comparatively (16 percent females, as opposed to 20 percent males). The divide is more stark when it comes to eating outside: 20 percent males eat at restaurants frequently, while only a mere 8 percent females do so. Talk about cooking skills (maybe!).

Physical Fitness
In order to evaluate physical fitness, we measured resting heart rate, lung capacity, muscular strength and joint mobility. 46 percent females passed the cardiovascular endurance test, as opposed to 40 percent males. Males claimed their clichéd bastion though, with 32 percent passing strength tests as opposed to 28 percent females. Meanwhile, both genders were found to be equally 'flexible', with 30 percent of both coming through in the flexibility test. Taking all the tests together, 31 percent males were found to have passed all the tests to be declared physically fit, as opposed to 28 percent females.

Stress levels are almost evenly matched with 12.26 percent males having high levels of stress as opposed to 12 percent females. The cause and effects of stress are similar too: 77 percent of both males and females are generally happy with their work and home life! While 78 percent males take refuge and support from the extended family of relatives and friends, 80 percent of females do the same. Men can't complain of being significantly more overworked, despite the prevailing presumption. The number of men who notice that they are overworked stands at 37 percent, while 36 percent women feel the same – not much of a difference there. But 12 percent men feel guilty about neglecting their family and friends, while a lower percentage - 8 – of women feel that they similarly neglect significant family responsibilities. This may (or may not) be because the stress areas of females are in a home setting, while males get their stress from their work life. Yet, the number of men who think they neglect themselves (16 percent) is only marginally higher than women (14 percent).

Smoking and Alcohol
It is in this one area that men have the dubious distinction of clearly surpassing women! While less than one percent of Indian urban women smoke, two percent (both women and men) have paan frequently and three percent women enjoy a frequent (more than once or twice a week) drink. Compare this with the 10 percent of men who smoke and 17 percent who drink frequently! What it finally boils down to, is that more than 25 percent of the male population are frequent associates of alcohol, smoking or paan, as opposed to less than three percent of the urban female population.

Chronic Ailments
When it comes to the major ailments of diabetes, high blood pressure (HBP) and hyperlipidemia, the male of the species has a higher affliction: 16 percent have HBP, 11 percent, diabetes, while high blood lipids affect 7 percent of them. However, when one comes to the minor ailments, it is the female who fares worse.
Minor Ailment %of females who have it % of males who have it
Joint ailments 39 26
Headache 23 12
Digestive Problems 31 28
Skin ailments 11 10
Allegies 11 8
Asthma 7 5

Heart Attack and Cancer
No health topic is complete these days without a reference to these major killers. Both these ailments are multifactoral and are caused by inappropriate lifestyle including obesity, high fat diet, lack of exercise, stress, smoking etc. In both ailments the male is more at risk - 56 percent for heart attack (as compared to 50 percent for the female) and nine percent for cancer (as compared to three percent for females).

Overall Health Status
So amidst this maze of percentages and tests, the overall picture that emerges is interesting:
  1. The Indian female is marginally fatter and does less exercise than the male.
  2. The male, even while being marginally less overweight and perhaps fitter than the female, unfortunately smokes and drinks more.
  3. As a consequence, or so it would seem, the male is more susceptible to the two major killers, heart attack and cancer.
Prof Adrian Kennedy is Consultant, Wellness Rx, International guru on health, wellness and lifestyle medicine and guest faculty for Harvard Medical School, USA