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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Kimberly Castleberry (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's the reason why women have a longer life span than men? And how has this advantage gotten larger over time? There isn't much evidence and we only have limited answers. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women have longer lives than men, However, we're not sure what the contribution to each of these variables is.

In spite of how much amount, we can say that at least part of the reason women live longer than men in the present however not as in the past, is to relate to the fact that some significant non-biological elements 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. We can see that all countries are above the diagonal parity line - this means in all countries baby girls can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

Interestingly, this chart shows that, while the advantage for women exists in all countries, country-specific differences are huge. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan the difference is less than half a calendar year.

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The advantage women had in life expectancy was less in countries with higher incomes than it is today.
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below illustrates the men and women's life expectancies when they were born in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

There is an upward trend. Women and men in America live longer than they were a century 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 life expectancy used to be extremely small however it increased dramatically in the past century.

You can check if the points you've listed are applicable to other countries that have information by clicking on the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, العاب زوجية and Sweden.262-141014130707-conversion-gate01-thumb