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Why are women living longer than men?

Annie Cardone (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 are more likely to live longer than men? Why has this advantage gotten larger as time passes? The evidence is sketchy and we're left with only incomplete solutions. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral as well as environmental factors which all play a part in women living longer than males, it isn't clear what percentage each factor plays in.

We are aware that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. However this is not because of certain non-biological aspects have changed. The factors changing are numerous. 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. As you can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line - this means that in all countries that a baby girl can be expected to live for longer than a new boy.1

Interestingly, this chart shows that, while the advantage for women exists across all countries, the global differences are significant. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than men; in Bhutan the difference is less than half a year.

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The advantage of women in life expectancy was much lower in the richer countries that it is today.
Let's examine how the female advantage in longevity has changed with time. The next chart shows male and https://designsystempedia.com/index.php/Why_Are_Women_Living_Longer_Than_Men female life expectancies when they were born in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two points stand out.

First, there's an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US have a much longer life span longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The second is that there is an ever-widening gap: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very modest, but it grew substantially during the last century.

You can confirm that these principles are also applicable to other countries that have information by clicking on the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.