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Why do women live longer than men?

Iva Unger (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's the reason women have a longer life span than men? And how has this advantage gotten larger over time? The evidence is limited and we only have some solutions. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women have longer life spans than men, however, we do not know what the contribution to each of these variables is.

In spite of the number of pounds, we know that a large portion of the reason women live so much longer than men today, but not in the past, is to do with the fact that some key non-biological factors have changed. What are these changing factors? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. There are other issues that are more intricate. 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 اوضاع الجماع women. As we can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line - which means that in every country the newborn girl is likely to live longer than a newborn boy.1

The chart above shows that, while the advantage for women exists everywhere, the cross-country differences are large. In Russia, اوضاع الجماع women live 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the gap is less that half a year.

The advantage for women in life expectancy was much lower in the richer countries than it is today.
Let's examine how the female advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The following chart shows the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy when they were born in the US between 1790 until 2014. Two points stand out.

There is an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US live a lot, much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is widening: While the advantage of women in life expectancy was once extremely small but it has risen significantly in the past.

Using the option 'Change country by country' in the chart, you are able to confirm that the two points are also applicable to other countries that have available information: Sweden, France and the UK.