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Why women live longer than men?

Yvette Bock (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 have a longer life span than men? And how the advantage has grown in the past? We have only a small amount of evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to reach an unambiguous conclusion. We know that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all play a role in the fact that women have longer life spans than men, However, we're not sure what the contribution of each one of these factors is.

We are aware that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. But, this is not because of certain non-biological factors have changed. What are these factors that have changed? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others are more complex. For example, صبغ الشعر بالاسود 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 diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl from any country can expect to live longer than her brothers.

Interestingly, this chart shows that while the female advantage exists everywhere, the cross-country differences are large. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than men; in Bhutan the difference is less than half a year.

In countries with high incomes, the longevity advantage for women was smaller
Let's now look at how the gender advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The following chart shows the male and female lifespans at birth in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two distinct points stand out.

There is an upward trend. Both men as well as women in the US are living much, much longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, there's an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in life expectancy used be very modest however it increased dramatically in the past century.

If you select the option "Change country from the chart, check that these two points also apply to the other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.