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Why women live longer than men?

Marilou Slapoffski (2022-04-16)

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. Why do women live so longer than men in the present and why does this benefit increase over time? We only have partial evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to support an informed conclusion. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women live longer than men; However, we're not sure how much the influence to each of these variables is.

Independently of the exact amount of weight, we are aware that a large portion of the reason women live longer than men do today however not as in the past, is to have to do with the fact that certain important non-biological aspects have changed. What are the factors that are changing? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Some 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.

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 every country is over the diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl from any country can expect to live longer than her brother.

This chart illustrates that, although there is a women's advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries are often significant. In Russia, women live 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan there is a difference of just half a year.

The female advantage in life expectancy was much lower in countries with higher incomes than it is now.
Let's now look at the way that female advantages in life expectancy has changed over time. The following chart shows the male and female life expectancies at the birth in the US between 1790 until 2014. Two things stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. Women and men in America have longer lives than they were 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The second is that there is an ever-widening gap: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very modest, but it grew substantially over the last century.

By selecting 'Change Country by country' in the chart, determine if these two points are applicable to the other countries having available information: Sweden, France and the UK.