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Why are women living 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. What's the reason women have a longer life span than men? What is the reason the advantage has grown as time passes? There isn't much evidence and we're only able to provide partial answers. We know that behavioral, biological and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women are healthier than men; however, we aren't sure how much the influence of each one of these factors is.

2 months agoIn spite of the precise amount of weight, we are aware that at least a portion of the reason women live longer than men but not in the past, has to relate to the fact that several fundamental non-biological factors have changed. These factors are changing. 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. We can see that all countries are above the diagonal parity line - it means that in all nations the newborn girl is likely to live for longer than a new boy.1

It is interesting to note that, while the advantage for women is present everywhere, difference between countries is huge. In Russia women are 10 years older than men, while in Bhutan the difference is less than half one year.

The advantage for women in terms of life expectancy was lower in countries with higher incomes as compared to the present.
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows the men and women's life expectancies at the birth in the US between 1790 until 2014. Two points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Both genders in America have longer lives than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is growing: Although the female advantage in terms of life expectancy was quite small It has significantly increased with time.

Using the option 'Change country from the chart, determine if these two points apply to other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.