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Why do women live longer than men?

Edith Birkbeck (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 why women are more likely to live longer than men? And how does this benefit increase over time? We have only a small amount of evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to reach an informed conclusion. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral, and environmental factors which play a significant role in women who live longer than males, we aren't sure how much each factor contributes.

We are aware that women live longer than men, regardless of their weight. However it is not because of certain non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others are more complex. 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.

SAXENDA_300x300.png?v=1591158962Everywhere in the world women tend to live longer than men
The first chart below shows life expectancy at birth for men and women. As you can see, all countries are above the diagonal line of parity - it means that in all nations baby girls can expect to live longer than a new boy.1

This chart shows that, even though women enjoy an advantage across all countries, differences between countries can be significant. In Russia women live 10 years more than males. In Bhutan there is a difference of only half a year.

In countries with high incomes, the women's advantage in longevity was previously smaller.
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The next chart compares the life expectancy of males and females when they were born in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

First, ابر التخسيس there is an upward trend. Men and women in America have longer lives than they were a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

There is a widening gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used to be extremely small but it increased substantially over the last century.

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