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Why are women living longer than men?

Morris Matheson (2022-04-19)


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 is the reason women live longer than men, and why has this advantage increased over time? There isn't much evidence and we only have limited solutions. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women have longer lives than men, but we don't know exactly how much the influence of each one of these factors is.

Independently of the exact amount, we can say that at least a portion of the reason why women live longer than men in the present and not in the past, is to have to do with the fact that several significant non-biological elements have changed. These are the factors that are changing. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Some 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. It is clear that every country is over the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl from every country could be expected to live for longer than her older brother.

It is interesting to note that, while the advantage for women exists across all countries, the global differences are significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan there is a difference of only half a year.

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The advantage of women in life expectancy was smaller in countries with higher incomes as compared to the present.
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The next chart compares male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two things stand out.

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

And علامات الحمل بولد second, there is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very modest however, it has increased significantly over the course of the last century.

You can verify that the points you've listed are applicable to other countries that have data by clicking on the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.