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Why are women living longer than men?

Launa Dibble (2022-04-19)

13400-2.jpgEverywhere 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 live longer than men? What is the reason the advantage has grown as time passes? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to reach an absolute conclusion. We know there are behavioral, biological and environmental variables which play a significant role in the longevity of women over males, we aren't sure what percentage each factor plays in.

It is known that women live longer than men, regardless of weight. However this isn't because of certain non-biological factors have changed. These factors are changing. 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 we can see, every country is above the diagonal line of parity - this means that in all countries a newborn girl can expect to live for longer than a newborn boy.1

The chart above shows that although the female advantage is present everywhere, cross-country differences are large. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than males; while in Bhutan the gap is just half one year.

In the richer countries, the female advantage in longevity was previously smaller.
Let's now look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed over time. The following chart shows the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at birth in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. Men and women in America live longer than they were 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 life expectancy used be quite small however, it has increased significantly over the last century.

You can verify that these are applicable to other countries that have data by clicking the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and كيفية إقامة علاقة بالصور Sweden.