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Why do women live longer than men?

Lona Talbott (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 are more likely to live longer than men? And how is this difference growing in the past? There is only limited evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to reach an absolute conclusion. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral, and environmental factors which all play a part in the longevity of women over males, it isn't clear 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, صبغ الشعر بالاسود ( but not in the past, has to have to do with the fact that certain important non-biological aspects have changed. The factors changing are numerous. 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. As we can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line ; which means that in every country baby girls can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

Interestingly, this chart shows that the advantage of women is present everywhere, difference between countries is huge. In Russia women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the difference is just half a year.

In rich countries the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let's look at how the gender advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The next chart shows the life expectancy of males and females at birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

First, there's an upward trend. Both men and women in the US have a much longer life span longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And second, there is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in life expectancy used to be extremely small but it increased substantially during the last century.

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