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Why women are more likely to live longer than men?

Lona Talbott (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 longer than men in the present and how have these advantages gotten bigger in the past? We only have a few clues and the evidence isn't sufficient to reach an absolute conclusion. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women are healthier than men; However, we're not sure how much the influence of each one of these factors is.

Independently of the exact amount, we can say that a large portion of the reason why women live so much longer than men today, but not in the past, is to be due to the fact that certain fundamental non-biological factors have changed. These factors are changing. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others 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 over the line of parity diagonally. This means that a newborn girl from every country could anticipate to live longer than her brother.

This chart is interesting in that it shows that although the female advantage exists everywhere, the global differences are significant. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than males; while in Bhutan the gap is just half a year.

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The advantage women had in life expectancy was much lower in developed countries than it is now.
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below shows gender-based and female-specific life expectancy when they were born in the US during the period 1790-2014. Two distinct points stand out.

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

The gap is getting wider: Although the advantage of women in life expectancy was once tiny, it has increased substantially over time.

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