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Why are women living longer than men?

Jett Alvarado (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 are more likely to live longer than men? What is the reason the advantage has grown as time passes? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to support an absolute conclusion. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that all play a role in the longevity of women over males, we aren't sure how much each one contributes.

Independently of the exact amount, we can say that at a minimum, the reason why women live longer than men in the present however not as in the past, has to do with the fact that certain fundamental non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Certain 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 above the diagonal parity line - it means that in all nations baby girls can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

It is interesting to note that although the female advantage exists everywhere, the country-specific differences are huge. In Russia women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the gap is less than half a calendar year.

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In countries with high incomes, the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows the male and female life expectancy at birth in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Both genders in the United States live longer than they were a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And second, there is a widening gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very modest but it increased substantially over the last century.

By selecting 'Change Country by country' in the chart, you will be able to determine if these two points apply to the other countries with available information: Sweden, France and افضل كريم للشعر the UK.