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Why do women live longer than men?

Randall Patterson (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 how is this difference growing in the past? The evidence is sketchy and we have only some solutions. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women are healthier than men; However, we're not sure how significant the impact of each factor is.

We are aware that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. However this isn't because of certain non-biological aspects have changed. These are the factors that are changing. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others 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.

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

Interestingly, تزويد مشتركين يوتيوب this chart shows that while the female advantage exists everywhere, the country-specific differences are huge. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan the difference is less than half a year.

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The female advantage in life expectancy was less in rich countries than it is today.
Let's look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed over time. The next chart plots the male and female lifespans when they were born in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two distinct points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Both genders in America live longer than they used to 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 terms of life expectancy used to be extremely small but it increased substantially over the course of the last century.

You can check if these points are also applicable to other countries that have data by selecting the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.