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Why are women living longer than men?

Kimberly Castleberry (2022-04-20)

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 live longer than men? What is the reason is this difference growing as time passes? The evidence is limited and we're left with only partial solutions. Although we know that there are behavioral, biological and environmental factors that play an integral role in women living longer than men, we do not know how much each factor contributes.

Independently of the exact weight, we know that at a minimum, the reason why women live so much longer than men today, but not in the past, has to do with the fact that several significant non-biological elements 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.

maxresdefault.jpgEverywhere 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 every country is over the line of parity diagonally. This means that a newborn girl from every country could expect to live longer than her brother.

This chart shows that, even though women enjoy an advantage in all countries, the differences across countries are often significant. In Russia women are 10 years older than males; while in Bhutan the gap is just half one year.

In the richer countries, the women's advantage in longevity used to be smaller
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The chart below illustrates the male and female life expectancies at the time of birth in the US from 1790 until 2014. Two distinct points stand out.

There is an upward trend. Women and ماذا يحدث بين الزوجين في الحمام بالصور men living in America are living longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is getting wider: Although the advantage of women in terms of life expectancy was tiny but it has risen significantly in the past.

By selecting 'Change Country by country' in the chart, you are able to determine if these two points are also applicable to other countries that have available data: Sweden, France and the UK.