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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Cathryn Richter (2022-04-18)

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 makes women live longer than men in the present, and why is this difference growing in the past? The evidence is sketchy and we're left with only partial solutions. While we are aware that there are biological, psychological and environmental factors which all play a part in the longevity of women over males, it isn't clear how much each one contributes.

In spite of the precise weight, we know that at least part of the reason why women live longer than men in the present and not in the past, has to do with the fact that a number of key non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. There are others 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, ماذا يحدث بين الزوجين في الحمام بالصور 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 above the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl in all countries can be expected to live for longer than her brothers.

This chart illustrates that, while there is a female advantage in all countries, the differences across countries could be significant. In Russia, women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan, the difference is less that half a year.

The advantage of women in life expectancy was smaller in the richer countries than it is now.
Let's look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed over time. The chart below shows male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. Women and men living in America are living longer 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 be very modest however, it has increased significantly in the past century.

If you select the option "Change country from the chart, you can check that these two points apply to other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.