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Why women are more likely to 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. Why do women live so longer than men in the present, and why is this difference growing over time? The evidence is limited and we're only able to provide some answers. We know there are behavioral, biological, and environmental factors that play an integral role in women living longer than males, it isn't clear how much each one contributes.

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Everywhere in the world women tend to live longer than men
The first chart below shows life expectancy at birth for men and women. It is clear that all countries are above the diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl in every country can anticipate to live longer than her brother.

This chart shows that, even though women enjoy an advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries can be significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than males; while in Bhutan the gap is just half each year.

In countries with high incomes, the female advantage in longevity was not as great.
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below illustrates the men and women's life expectancies at the birth in the US in the years 1790 until 2014. Two points stand out.

There is an upward trend. Men and women in the US live much, much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And second, there is a widening gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used be extremely small but it increased substantially in the past century.

Using the option 'Change country' on the chart, you can verify that these two points also apply to other countries that have available information: Sweden, France and the UK.