The Interplay of Biological and Socio Environmental Factors in Aging and Disorders in Women

The Interplay of Biological and Socio Environmental Factors in Aging and Disorders in Women

Anita Jagota (University of Hyderabad, India), Navya Jannu (Jindal Global Law School, India) and Suchitra Boro (University of Hyderabad, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4772-3.ch008
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Aging is a biological, social, and environmental phenomenon characterized by progressive decline in all physiological functions. Age depends upon genes, social and environmental influences, and lifestyle. Although aging occurs at varying rates, it takes greater toll on gender. Beyond multiple social inequalities, women experience proportionately higher rates of chronic illness, disability, and deterioration in the body appearance leading to depression, decreased socialization resulting in sleep disorders. Therefore, onset of sleep and health disorders with aging in women were studied in variable cross sections of society with variable social structures and lifestyles. The case studies involved the field work and data collection from old age homes and individuals. The analysis of the interplay of biological, social, and environmental factors influencing sleep disorders in aging women done through such studies will help in designing policies and measures for improving economic level, social support, functional ability, psychosocial stress, loneliness, depression, and health services.
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Growing old is a biological process which has two major facets. The first is how long one can live and the second concerns the physiological deterioration, or senescence, that characterizes old age. It occurs naturally to all living organisms with the passage of time. It is characterized by the progressive decline in all physiological functions leading to genomic instability with decline of organ functions and body system (Estes & Carrol, 2001; Jagota, 2005; Balen & Girija, 2010). Aging is often linked to post-reproductive period, though changes begin much earlier. It is a normal part of the life span- from conception through birth-infancy-childhood-adolescence-adulthood-old age to death. Each of these stages have unique characteristics and vulnerabilities that require special attention so as to ensure best health during each stage (Balen &Girija, 2010). Interestingly, each individual has a unique genetic makeup and distinct social and environmental surrounding which plays an important role in regulation of life span and aging (Tinker, 1997; Sahrawat, 2010). Aging also known as ‘senescence’ is characterized by a complex combination of physiological, psychological and social aspects. Aging is the time-related deterioration of the physiological functions necessary for survival and reproduction. In this chapter we will discuss the interplay of biological, socio-environmental factors responsible for aging and sleep disorders in women.

Biological aging can be related to decrease in antioxidant enzymes leading to oxidative stress, alterations in hormones, antioxidants, DNA levels, telomere shortening etc. Recent data suggests that genetic components regulate the rate of aging, and that altering the activity or expression of these genes can alter an individual’s life span. The maximum human life span is estimated to be 121 years (Arking, 1998) but most people cannot live that long. Interestingly in most times and places, human did not live much past 40. A 65-year-old person was rare in colonial America but is common today. In 1900, 50% of American women were dead by age 58 whereas in 1980 by 81. Thus, the concern for senescence is much more today than it was a century ago. In 1900, the luxury of dying with heart attacks or cancers was rare and so also the psychological and depression responsible for sleep disorders due to gray hair, sagging and wrinkling skin, stiff joints, osteoporosis (loss of bone calcium), loss of muscle fibers and muscular strength, memory loss, eyesight deterioration and slowed sexual responsiveness (Gilbert, 2010) in addition to obesity (Moreno-Vecino et al 2017).

Old age is a period of transition which involves not only physical wellbeing but also social wellbeing. With the passage of time, there is a significant change in the demographic characteristics of a country. Population aging is a product of history, individual experiences and social forces (Sen, 1994; Chokrobarti, 2004). It is viewed as a natural outcome of demographic transition. The lives of elderly people in the society have been significantly affected by the rapid change in their environment in past few decades as a result of the increase in industrialization and fast modernization. These changes have predominantly had a negative influence on elderly.

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