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Why do women live longer than men?

Birgit Sellheim (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 more than men do today, and why does this benefit increase over time? The evidence is limited and we're only able to provide limited solutions. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women have longer life spans than men, but we don't know exactly what the contribution 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 do today but not in the past, is to do with the fact that some key non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Other 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. As we can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line , this means in all countries baby girls can expect to live for longer than a newborn boy.1

This chart is interesting in that it shows that, while the advantage for women exists in all countries, difference between countries is huge. In Russia, women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the gap is only half a year.

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The female advantage in terms of life expectancy was lower in rich countries than it is now.
Let's look at how the advantage of women in life expectancy has changed over time. The chart below shows gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at birth in the US between 1790 to 2014. Two distinct points stand ابر التخسيس out.

First, there's an upward trend. Men and women in the US are living much, much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, there's an increasing gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used be quite small, but it grew substantially over the last century.

If you select the option "Change country by country' in the chart, you can determine if these two points apply to other countries that have available information: Sweden, France and the UK.