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Why do women live longer than men?

Diane Storm (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 more than men do today, and why is this difference growing over time? We only have partial evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to reach a definitive conclusion. While we are aware that there are biological, psychological as well as environmental factors that play an integral role in women's longevity more than men, we do not know how much each factor contributes.

We are aware that women live longer than males, regardless of weight. However, this is not due to the fact that certain biological factors have changed. What are the factors that are changing? 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 ابر التخسيس 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 in all countries baby girls can expect to live for longer than a new boy.1

It is interesting to note that although the female advantage exists everywhere, the cross-country differences are large. In Russia women have a longer life span than men. In Bhutan the difference is less than half each year.

In rich countries the longevity advantage for women was smaller
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows the life expectancy of males and females at birth in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two specific points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. 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.

And second, there is an ever-widening gap: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be quite small however it increased dramatically over the course of the last century.

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