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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Ryder Crookes (2022-04-15)

Everywhere in the world women live longer than men - but this was not always the case. The available data from rich countries shows that women didn't live longer than men in the 19th century. What's the reason women have a longer life span than men? And how does this benefit increase in the past? The evidence is limited and we only have limited solutions. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women have longer lives than men, however, we aren't sure what the contribution of each factor is.

ARMUoipJD2bm2kPiTcc7WwHaD4.jpgWe know that women live longer than men, regardless of their weight. However this is not due to the fact that certain non-biological aspects have changed. The factors changing are numerous. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Certain are more complicated. For example, there is evidence that in rich countries the female advantage increased in part because infectious diseases used to affect women disproportionately a century ago, so advances in medicine that reduced the long-term health burden from infectious diseases, especially for survivors, ended up raising women's longevity disproportionately.

Everywhere in the world women tend to live longer than men
The first chart below shows life expectancy at birth for men and women. It is clear that all countries are over the line of parity diagonally. This means that a newborn girl in every country can be expected to live for longer than her younger brother.

This graph shows that even though women enjoy an advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries are often significant. In Russia, women live 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the difference is less that half a year.

The advantage of women in terms of life expectancy was lower in rich countries than it is now.
Let's look at how female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The next chart shows male and female life expectancies when they were born in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two points stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. as well as women in the US live much, much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is getting wider: Although the female advantage in life expectancy was tiny It has significantly increased in the past.

You can verify that these principles are also applicable to other countries with data by clicking on the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.