Metabolic syndrome may cost men more

MONASH (AUS) — Men with a condition that can lead to cardiovascular, cerebrovascular disease, or diabetes are likely to incur higher health care costs than women with similar conditions, research shows.

The new study, conducted in Taiwan, examines all expenditures across six healthcare services: inpatient, ambulatory care, dental care, traditional Chinese medicine, emergency and contracted pharmacy for 1,378 individuals aged from 65 years with metabolic syndrome (MetS).

A number of health risk factors that often occur together, namely abdominal fatness, high blood sugar, abnormal blood fats, and high blood pressure make up the MetS.

The study found medical costs were significantly higher for elderly people with the MetS, especially men, who incurred more than 40 percent more costs than those without the MetS characteristics. Women with MetS incurred almost 20 percent more costs. For hospital inpatient costs they were nearly three-times higher for men with the MetS and almost 30 percent higher for women.


While the MetS doesn’t necessarily predict greater mortality in later life, there are clearly higher medical costs especially for elderly men, says Mark Wahlqvist, professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University and co-author of the study published in Gender Medicine.

“Men with the MetS are more likely to be affected by elevated blood sugar, higher blood pressure, and low levels of good cholesterol (HDL) than women. The research also found these factors accounted for not only more, but a larger proportion of the medical expenses for men than women, especially for hospitalization, when they developed the MetS.”

While the research was undertaken in Taiwan, Wahlqvist says health planners around the world need to be aware of the combined impact of age, gender, and the MetS on costs for medical services.

“While more and more effective medications are available to deal with the MetS, it is probably far more practical, affordable and sustainable for men to change their personal behaviors, especially smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet to reduce healthcare costs,” Wahlqvist says.

“By undertaking better health-seeking behavior, increased exercise, and a varied diet with an emphasis on plant foods such as oatmeal, beans, and nuts, and on fish, men would improve their health and, at the same time, reduce medical expenses.

“We need to explore further the basis of this relatively greater cost of men than women to the health care system when they have the MetS.”

Researchers from the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, and the National Defense Medical Centre, Taiwan, contributed to the eight-year collaborative study.

Source: Monash University