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Why are women living longer than men?

Danny Arias (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 longer than men in the present and how have these advantages gotten bigger in the past? The evidence isn't conclusive and we only have limited answers. Although we know that there are behavioral, biological and environmental factors that play an integral role in women living longer than men, we don't know how much each one contributes.

It is known that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. But, this is not due to the fact that certain biological factors have changed. What are these changing factors? 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. We can see that every country is over the diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl from every country could anticipate to live longer than her brothers.

This chart shows that, even though women enjoy an advantage in all countries, the differences across countries can be significant. In Russia women have a longer life span than males; while in Bhutan the gap is just half an hour.

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

First, there is an upward trend. as well as women in the US live much, 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 female advantage in life expectancy used to be quite small, it has increased substantially over time.

You can confirm that these points are also applicable to other countries that have data by selecting the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, زيوت تطويل الشعر France, and Sweden.