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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Arthur Kulikowski (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 more than men do today and why does this benefit increase in the past? There is only limited evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to support an unambiguous conclusion. We know that behavioral, biological and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women have longer lives than men, but we don't know exactly how strong the relative contribution of each one of these factors is.

Independently of the exact amount, we can say that at least part of the reason why women live so much longer than men in the present however not as previously, has to do with the fact that certain fundamental non-biological factors have changed. These 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. As you can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line , this means in all countries that a baby girl can be expected to live longer than a newborn boy.1

This graph shows that while there is a female advantage in all countries, the differences across countries can be significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan there is a difference of only half a year.

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In countries with high incomes, the longevity advantage for women was smaller
Let's examine the way that female advantages in life expectancy has changed over time. The next chart plots male and female life expectancy at birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two specific points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Men and women in the United States live longer than they were a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is getting wider: Although the advantage of women in life expectancy was very small but it has risen significantly with time.

Using the option 'Change country by country' in the chart, verify that these two points also apply to other countries that have available information: Sweden, افضل شامبو وبلسم France and the UK.3 months ago