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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Leandro Tilton (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 the advantage has grown in the past? There is only limited evidence and the evidence is not strong enough to make an absolute conclusion. While we are aware that there are behavioral, biological and environmental factors that play an integral role in women living longer than males, we aren't sure how much each factor contributes.

It is known that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. However, this is not because of certain non-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. There are others 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 women. We can see that all countries are above the diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl in all countries can be expected to live for العاب زوجية longer than her older brother.

Interestingly, this chart shows that although the female advantage is present everywhere, global differences are significant. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the difference is just half a year.

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In countries with high incomes, the advantage of women in longevity was smaller
Let's examine how the advantage of women in longevity has changed with time. The following chart shows male and female life expectancies when they were born in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

First, there's an upward trend. Both 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.

There is an increasing gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used be quite small however, it has increased significantly over the last century.

You can verify that these principles are also applicable to other countries with data by clicking on the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.