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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Shawnee Kiley (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. Why do women live much longer than men today and why does this benefit increase over time? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not strong enough to make an absolute conclusion. We know there are behavioral, biological as well as environmental factors that play an integral role in women's longevity more than males, we aren't sure how much each factor contributes.

We have learned that women are living longer than men, regardless of their weight. But this isn't because of certain non-biological aspects have changed. What are these changing factors? 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. We can see that all countries are above the line of parity diagonally. This means that a newborn girl from any country can anticipate to live longer than her brother.

The chart above shows that, while the advantage for women exists across all countries, the cross-country differences are large. In Russia, women live 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the difference is just half a year.

The advantage women had in life expectancy was much lower in the richer countries that it is today.
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below illustrates the male and female life expectancies at the time of birth in the US between 1790 to 2014. Two points stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. Both genders in America live 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 a widening gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very small, but it grew substantially over the last century.

Using the option 'Change country from the chart, العاب زوجية you are able to determine if these two points apply to other countries that have available information: Sweden, France and العاب زوجية the UK.