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Why women live longer than men?

Marilou Slapoffski (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 and why does this benefit increase over time? There is only limited evidence and the evidence is not strong enough to make an informed conclusion. We know there are behavioral, biological, and environmental factors which play a significant role in women's longevity more than males, it isn't clear the extent to which each factor plays a role.

We have learned that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. However it is not because of certain non-biological aspects have changed. What are these new factors? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others 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.

2 days agoEverywhere 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 over the diagonal line of parity. This implies that a baby girl in all countries can anticipate to live longer than her older brother.

The chart below shows that although women have an advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries are often significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than males; while in Bhutan the difference is just half an hour.

In wealthy countries, the advantage of women in longevity was smaller
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The chart below shows gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the time of birth in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two things stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Women and men in America live longer than they were 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is widening: While the female advantage in life expectancy was extremely small however, it has grown significantly in the past.

Using the option 'Change country in the chart, you will be able to check that these two points are also applicable to the other countries having available information: Sweden, France and the UK.