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Why do women live longer than men?

Major Ervin (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 so longer than men and why is this difference growing in the past? There isn't much evidence and we're left with only partial solutions. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women are healthier than men; but we don't know exactly how strong the relative contribution of each one of these factors is.

We have learned that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. But this is not because of certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. What are the factors that are changing? 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 every country is above the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl in every country can anticipate to live longer than her younger brother.

This chart illustrates that, while there is a female advantage everywhere, cross-country differences could be significant. In Russia women live 10 years more than males. In Bhutan the gap is just half a year.

In countries with high incomes, the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let's now look at how the gender advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The chart below illustrates the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the birth in the US in the years 1790-2014. Two specific points stand out.

First, there's an upward trend. Both men as well as 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.

Second, the gap is growing: Although the female advantage in life expectancy used to be quite small, it has increased substantially with time.

Uadcea6e2f129496a8056f4c12ef2690ch.jpg_3Using the option 'Change country from the chart, confirm that the two points are applicable to other countries with available information: Sweden, العاب زوجية France and the UK.