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Why are women living longer than men?

Piper Niland (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? What is the reason is this difference growing as time passes? There is only limited evidence and the evidence isn't strong enough to make an absolute conclusion. We know that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women have longer life spans than men, however, we do not know how significant the impact to each of these variables is.

In spite of the precise amount, we can say that at a minimum, the reason why women live longer than men today but not in the past, has to do with the fact that a number of significant non-biological elements have changed. These 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, صبغ الشعر بالاسود 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 parity line ; this means in all countries that a baby girl can be expected to live for longer than a new boy.1

Interestingly, this chart shows that although the female advantage exists in all countries, global differences are significant. In Russia women are 10 years older than men; in Bhutan the difference is less than half an hour.

In rich countries the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let's look at the way that female advantages in life expectancy has changed over time. The chart below shows men and women's life expectancies at the time of birth in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Men and women in the US live much, much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is widening: While the female advantage in terms of life expectancy was quite small but it has risen significantly in the past.

By selecting 'Change Country from the chart, check that these two points apply to other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.