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Why are women living longer than men?

Annie Cardone (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 much longer than men today and how is this difference growing in the past? The evidence is limited and we're left with only incomplete answers. While we are aware that there are behavioral, biological as well as environmental factors which all play a part in women who live longer than males, we aren't sure what percentage each factor plays in.

In spite of how much amount of weight, we are aware that at least a portion of the reason why women live so much longer than men today but not previously, has to relate to the fact that several significant non-biological elements 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, 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, every country is above the diagonal parity line , this means in all countries baby girls can expect to live for longer than a new boy.1

This graph shows that even though women enjoy an advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries are often significant. In Russia, women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan, the difference is just half a year.

In the richer countries, the advantage of women in longevity used to be smaller
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows the male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two specific points stand out.

There is an upward trend: Men and women in the US are living much, much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And second, there is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in life expectancy used be extremely small but it increased substantially during the last century.

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