Gender differences and burden of chronic conditions: impact on quality of life among the elderly in Taiwan



Multiple chronic conditions affect people’s health-related quality of life (QoL) and the distributions of the conditions may differ between genders. Our goal was to examine gender differences in chronic conditions and QoL among community-living elderly in Taiwan and to examine whether differences in QoL between genders, if present, were attributable to the distribution of chronic conditions.


We used data from the Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (NAHSIT, 2005–2008), which interviewed a representative sample of the Taiwanese population. The survey questions included the SF-36 questionnaire to assess participants’ QoL and items for participants’ medical history. We used multiple linear regressions to examine the difference in QoL between genders.


We included 1179 elders for our analysis; men accounted for 52% (612/1179). The mean age was 73; women were slightly younger. The mean (standard deviation) of SF-36 physical and mental health component score (PCS and MCS) was 44.5 (11.1) and 55.6 (9.0), respectively, and women reported a significantly lower PCS than men (difference − 4.85, p < 0.001). Urinary incontinence, arthritis, stroke, and kidney disease were associated with a clinically meaningful decrease in PCS (≤ − 6.5 points). The difference in PCS between genders was not attenuated after we accounted for chronic conditions in regression analysis.


Our findings suggest that women tend to report that their physical health-related QoL is poorer than that of men, and such a difference does not seem to be attributable to the distribution of chronic conditions. Elderly men and women may perceive health-related QoL differently.

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Data availability

The data used for this study are confidential and cannot be made public. Please contact Dr. Yu ( for any questions about data files.



Mental health component score


Nutrition and health survey in Taiwan


Physical health component score


Quality of life


Short form 36


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Data analyzed in this paper were collected by the research project “Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (NAHSIT 2005–2008)” sponsored by the Department of Health in Taiwan (DOH94-fs-6-4). This research project was carried out by the Center for Survey Research of the Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences of Academia Sinica, directed by Professor Wen-Harn Pan. The Office of Nutrition Survey, the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica is responsible for data distribution. The assistance provided by the institutes and efforts made by all contributed to the survey are greatly appreciated. The views expressed herein are solely those of the authors.


TY was partly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan. HY was funded by Mackay Medical College (1071B07 & 1061B05). NEA and GZ were partly funded by the Department of Public Health, China Medical University, Taiwan.

Author information




TY study design, data analysis, and manuscript preparation. NEA study design and manuscript preparation. GZ study design and manuscript preparation. YJH manuscript preparation. HJC manuscript preparation. HY study design and manuscript preparation. All authors read and approved the final version of manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hsing-Yu Yang.

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The survey implementation and instruments were approved by the Institutional Review Board of Academia Sinica, Taiwan.

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Yu, T., Enkh-Amgalan, N., Zorigt, G. et al. Gender differences and burden of chronic conditions: impact on quality of life among the elderly in Taiwan. Aging Clin Exp Res 31, 1625–1633 (2019).

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  • Health-related quality of life
  • Gender differences
  • Chronic conditions
  • Health survey