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Why are women living longer than men?

Reed Schwarz (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 why women are more likely to live longer than men? What is the reason the advantage has grown as time passes? The evidence is sketchy and we're only able to provide limited solutions. Although we know that there are biological, psychological, and environmental factors that play an integral role in women living longer than men, we don't know the extent to which each factor plays a role.

It is known that women live longer than men, regardless of weight. But, 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 complex. 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 line of parity. This means that a newborn girl in all countries can be expected to live for longer than her brother.

It is interesting to note that the advantage of women exists in all countries, difference between countries is huge. In Russia, women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the gap is less that half a year.

In rich countries the female advantage in longevity used to be smaller
Let's look at how the female advantage in terms of longevity has changed over time. The chart below shows gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the time of birth in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

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

There is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be quite small however it increased dramatically over the last century.

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