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Why do women live longer than men?

Lona Fawcett (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 is the reason women live much longer than men today, and why has this advantage increased over time? The evidence is sketchy and we have only some answers. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women live longer than men; However, we're not sure what the contribution of each one of these factors is.

We know that women live longer than men, regardless of their weight. But it is not due to the fact that certain non-biological aspects have changed. What are these factors that have changed? 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. We can see that every country is above the diagonal parity line - which means that in every country baby girls can expect to live longer than a new boy.1

The chart below shows that even though women enjoy an advantage in all countries, the differences across countries can be significant. In Russia women live 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the gap is only half a year.

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In rich countries the women's advantage in longevity used to be smaller
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The chart below illustrates the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the time of birth in the US between 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

The first is that 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.

There is an ever-widening gap: اوضاع الجماع female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be extremely small however, it has increased significantly over the course of the last century.

It is possible to verify that these are applicable to other countries with data by clicking on the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.