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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Wilford Tufnell (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 much longer than men today, and why have these advantages gotten bigger over time? There isn't much evidence and we have only partial solutions. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women have longer lives than men, However, we're not sure how strong the relative contribution of each of these factors is.

We know that women live longer than men, regardless of weight. However this is not because of certain non-biological aspects have changed. These variables are evolving. 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, صبغ الشعر بالاسود ( 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 we can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line - this means in all countries that a baby girl can be expected to live longer than a newborn boy.1

This chart is interesting in that it shows that, while the advantage for women exists across all countries, the difference between countries is huge. In Russia, women live 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan, the difference is less that half a year.

In rich countries the advantage of women in longevity was previously smaller.
We will now examine how the female advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The chart below shows men and women's life expectancies at the birth in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two specific points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Both genders in America live longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is growing: Although the advantage of women in life expectancy was extremely small, it has increased substantially over time.

When you click on the option "Change country by country' in the chart, you will be able to verify that these two points also apply to the other countries having available information: Sweden, France and the UK.