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Sex differences in health at ages 11, 13 and 15

Elsevier Science Ltd.
Publication Date
  • Ra Public Aspects Of Medicine
  • Psychology


This paper tests the hypothesis of an emerging or increasing female excess in general ill-health and physical symptoms, as well as psychological distress, during early to mid-adolescence. Self-reported data on general health (longstanding illness and health in the last 12 months), recent symptoms (classified as ‘physical’ and ‘malaise’) and depressive mood were obtained from a large, Scottish, school-based cohort at ages 11, 13 and 15. Generally high levels of health problems at age 11 tended to increase with age, these increases being greater for females than males, not only in respect of depression and ‘malaise’ symptoms, but also limiting illness, ‘poor’ self-rated health, headaches, stomach problems and dizziness. The consequence, by age 15, is the emergence of a female excess in general ill-health and depressive mood, and a substantial strengthening of the small excess in both ‘physical’ and ‘malaise’ symptoms already apparent at 11 years. These findings are discussed in relation to explanations for the adult female excess in poorer health, and the emergence of a female excess of depression during adolescence.

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