Britt-Marie Sjölund, PhD and associate professor in nursing science at the University of Gävle shows in her research that the elderly in Gävle have become healthier longer into their lives, but also that there are more disabled elderly women than men.
Through analyzing of comprehensive data from three different studies (Kungsholmsprojectet, Nordanstigningsprojektet and Snac-Nordanstig) and Deep interviews Britt-Marie Sjölund has made new findings about the elderly’s situation.
- The outermost goal has been to identify the factors that can preemptively help so that disability can be prevented or postponed, says Britt-Marie Sjölund.
- Because we live longer, it is important to act preemptively against the occurrence of disabilities.
Elderly living in the city are healthier
Her research shows that the elderly population in the city is healthier than those in rural areas.
- I was also surprised because up until now, the norm has been to assume the opposite, says Britt-Marie Sjölund.
In her analysis she points at factors in life such as the food we eat as an explanation. Typical examples of disease that are influenced by Lifestyle such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes are more common in rural areas.
- Another influencing factor was how one had been living during one’s whole life and what one had been doing for a living.
In the country-side it was most common to be working with agroforestry, a heavy work. In the city on the other hand, working in offices and stores was the most common. In the large survey, only two people from Stockholm had worked with agroforestry.
- It is also less common to visit the hospital in rural areas, one is supposed to be able to take care of oneself.
Women the most sick but lives the longest
Women are the most disabled and have the most diseases but lives the longest. The occurrence of disabilities amongst women has been increasing, while it has been staying the same amongst men.
- One explanation could be that disease affects us differently. For example when Rheumatic diseases were investigated it was found that women became more disabled by the same disease.
Men also don’t go to the hospital as much as women which could be an explanation why men suddenly just die. They suffer in silence.
The informal health care
The system being used can also detect those in the informal care which is something that has not been possible before. Most of the elderly care today is done by volunteers. The informal health care of today is three times as big as the formal one.
- I was able to see that there were more informal health care in rural areas, people there have larger social networks and therefore there are more people they can get help from.
In the future
Britt-Marie Sjölund wants to continue her research.
- Quality of life is something I find interesting and to connect it to functionality and look at their relationship.
- What is going to happen when the formal care is lessened and there is an increasing pressure on the informal one?
- To be dependent upon help from another person is something that negatively affects the quality of life for the dependent but also for the informal (closely related) caretaking individual, says Britt-Marie Sjögren.
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Britt-Marie Sjölund, PhD and associate professor in nursing science at the University of Gävle