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Why are women living longer than men?

Yvette Bock (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. What's the main reason women are more likely to live longer than men? And why the advantage has grown over time? The evidence is sketchy and we're only able to provide partial solutions. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women are healthier than men; but we don't know exactly how much the influence of each one of these factors is.

It is known that women are living longer than men, regardless of their weight. But it is not because of certain non-biological aspects have changed. These are the factors that are changing. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. There are other issues that are more intricate. 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 line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl in every country can be expected to live for longer than her younger brother.

This graph shows that although women have an advantage everywhere, cross-country differences are often significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men; in Bhutan the difference is less than half each year.

The advantage of women in life expectancy was much lower in developed countries as compared to the present.
Let's look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed with time. The chart below shows male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two things stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Men and كيفية ممارسة العلاقة الزوجية فى الاسلام women in America have longer lives than they used to a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is getting wider: Although the advantage of women in life expectancy used to be extremely small, it has increased substantially over time.

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