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Why are women living longer than men?

Joesph Laforest (2022-04-18)

succulent_plant-1024x683.jpgEverywhere 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 are more likely to live longer than men? What is the reason has this advantage gotten larger as time passes? There isn't much evidence and we only have partial solutions. We know there are behavioral, biological and environmental variables that all play a role in women living longer than males, we aren't sure what percentage each factor plays in.

In spite of the amount, we can say that at a minimum, the reason women live longer than men today however not as in the past, is to do with the fact that certain significant non-biological elements have changed. These factors are changing. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Certain 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. As you can see, all countries are above the diagonal line of parity - it means that in all nations baby girls can expect to live longer than a new boy.1

This chart is interesting in that it shows that the advantage of women exists across all countries, the country-specific differences are huge. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the difference is just half one year.

The advantage for women in life expectancy was less in rich countries as compared to the present.
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The following chart shows the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two distinct points stand out.

There is an upward trend. Both genders in America have longer lives than they used to a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The second is that there is a widening gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be quite small, but it grew substantially over the last century.

Using the option 'Change country from the chart, you are able to confirm that the two points apply to other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.