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Why are women living longer than men?

Sabine Biaggini (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 so more than men do today, and why does this benefit increase in the past? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to reach an informed conclusion. While we are aware that there are biological, psychological, and environmental factors which all play a part in women living longer than males, we aren't sure how much each factor contributes.

It is known that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. But this is not because of certain non-biological factors have changed. The factors changing are numerous. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Some are more complex. 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. It is clear that all countries are above the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl from every country could expect to live longer than her younger brother.

139209230824004631731914.jpgThis graph shows that although women have an advantage everywhere, cross-country differences are often significant. In Russia women have a longer life span than men, while in Bhutan the difference is less than half each year.

In countries with high incomes, the female advantage in longevity was not as great.
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below shows men and women's life expectancies at the time of birth in the US from 1790-2014. Two aspects stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US are living much, much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The second is that there is an increasing gap: ابر التخسيس The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very small however it increased dramatically during the last century.

You can verify that these principles are also applicable to other countries that have data by clicking on the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.