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Why do women live longer than men?

Roma Glaze (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? And why the advantage has grown over time? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to reach an informed conclusion. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women live longer than men; however, we do not know how strong the relative contribution of each factor is.

We are aware that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. However this is not due to the fact that certain non-biological factors have changed. These are the factors that are changing. 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 you can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line ; it means that in all nations a newborn girl can expect to live for longer than a new boy.1

Interestingly, this chart shows that the advantage of women exists in all countries, country-specific differences are huge. In Russia, women live 10 years more than men. In Bhutan there is a difference of less than half a calendar year.

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In rich countries the female advantage in longevity used to be smaller
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The chart below illustrates the male and female life expectancy at the birth in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two specific points stand out.

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

The second is that there is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in life expectancy used be extremely small, but it grew substantially over the course of the last century.

You can verify that these are applicable to other countries that have data by clicking on the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, ماذا يحدث بين الزوجين في الحمام بالصور and Sweden.