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Why are women living longer than men?

Kimberly Castleberry (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. Why do women live much longer than men today and how have these advantages gotten bigger in the past? We only have partial evidence and the evidence is not sufficient to draw an absolute conclusion. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women have longer lives than men, however, we do not know how much the influence of each one of these factors is.

We are aware that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. However this isn't because of certain biological factors have changed. What are these factors that have changed? 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. We can see that all countries are over the diagonal line of parity. This implies that a baby girl in every country can anticipate to live longer than her brothers.

This graph shows that although women have an advantage everywhere, cross-country differences can be substantial. In Russia women live 10 years more than males. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.

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In countries with high incomes, the advantage of women in longevity used to be smaller
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The following chart shows the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the time of birth in the US in the years 1790 until 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

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

And صبغ الشعر بالاسود second, there is a widening gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be extremely small however, it has increased significantly during the last century.

5 years agoIf you select the option "Change country from the chart, you will be able to determine if these two points apply to other countries with available data: Sweden, France and the UK.