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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Anthony Lovejoy (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. Why do women live so much longer than men today and why does this benefit increase over time? We have only a small amount of evidence and the evidence isn't strong enough to make a definitive conclusion. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women are healthier than men; but we don't know exactly what the contribution to each of these variables is.

In spite of the precise amount, we can say that a large portion of the reason why women live longer than men but not previously, is to have to do with the fact that several fundamental non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. 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.

23734482_369585516788831_478809955384269Everywhere in the world women tend to live longer than men
The first chart below shows life expectancy at birth for men and women. We can see that all countries are above the diagonal parity line , this means in all countries baby girls can expect to live for صبغ الشعر بالاسود longer than a newborn boy.1

Interestingly, this chart shows that while the female advantage exists in all countries, global differences are significant. In Russia women are 10 years older than men. In Bhutan the gap is less than half each year.

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The female advantage in life expectancy was much lower in the richer countries than it is today.
Let's examine how the female advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The following chart shows the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the time of birth in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

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

And second, there is an ever-widening gap: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be extremely small however, it has increased significantly in the past century.

When you click on the option "Change country from the chart, you will be able to confirm that the two points apply to the other countries with available data: Sweden, France and the UK.