Aging is characterized by decreasing physiological integration, reduced function, loss of resilience and increased risk of death. Paradoxically, although women live longer, they suffer greater morbidity particularly late in life.
These sex differences in human lifespan and healthspan are consistently observed in all countries and during every era for which reliable data exist.
While these differences are ubiquitous in humans, evidence of sex differences in longevity and health for other species is more equivocal. Among fruit flies, nematodes and mice, sex differences in lifespan vary depending on strain and treatment.
In this review, we focus on sex differences in age-related alterations in DNA damage and mutation rates, telomere attrition, epigenetics, and nuclear architecture.
We find that robust sex differences exist, for example the higher incidence of DNA damage in men compared to women, but sex differences are not often conserved between species.
For most mechanisms reviewed here, there are insufficient data to make a clear determination regarding the impact of sex, largely because sex differences have not been analyzed. Overall, our findings reveal an urgent need for well-designed studies that explicitly examine sex differences in molecular drivers of aging.