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Why do women live longer than men?

Iva Unger (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 main reason women live longer than men? What is the reason is this difference growing in the past? There isn't much evidence and we're left with only limited solutions. 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 do not know what the contribution of each of these factors is.

In spite of the amount of weight, we are aware that at least a portion of the reason women live longer than men do today and not in the past, has to relate to the fact that some fundamental non-biological factors have changed. What are these new factors? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, اضيق وضعية للجماع 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. As you can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line - it means that in all nations baby girls can expect to live for longer than a new boy.1

This chart shows that, even though women enjoy an advantage across all countries, differences between countries can be substantial. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than men; in Bhutan the gap is just half a year.

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In the richer countries, the advantage of women in longevity used to be smaller
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The next chart plots male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two distinct features stand out.

There is an upward trend. Both men and women in the US live a lot, much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is growing: Although the advantage of women in terms of life expectancy was quite small but it has risen significantly over time.

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