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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Joesph Laforest (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 and why has this advantage increased over time? There isn't much evidence and we only have limited answers. We know there are biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that play an integral role in the longevity of women over males, we aren't sure how much each one contributes.

It is known that women live longer than males, regardless of weight. However it is not due to the fact that certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. 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. As you can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line ; it means that in all nations baby girls can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

The chart above shows that, while the advantage for women is present everywhere, cross-country differences are large. In Russia women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the gap is just half a year.

In the richer countries, the advantage of women in longevity was previously smaller.
Let's look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed with time. The next chart shows male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two specific points stand out.

First, there's an upward trend. Both men and women in the US have a much longer life span longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is getting wider: Although the advantage of women in life expectancy was once quite small however, it has grown significantly over time.

Using the option 'Change country' on the chart, determine if these two points also apply to other countries that have available data: Sweden,;, France and the UK.