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Why do women have longer lives than men?

Ferne Sisk (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 have a longer life span than men? What is the reason does this benefit increase in the past? There is only limited evidence and the evidence isn't strong enough to make an unambiguous conclusion. We know there are behavioral, biological and environmental factors which all play a part in women's longevity more than males, it isn't clear how much each one contributes.

It is known that women live longer than men, regardless of their weight. But this is not because of certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. What are the factors that are changing? 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.

1 year agoEverywhere 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 ; this means that in all countries the newborn girl is likely to live longer than a newborn boy.1

The chart above shows that the advantage of women exists across all countries, the cross-country differences are large. In Russia women are 10 years older than men. In Bhutan the difference is just half one year.

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The advantage women had in life expectancy was smaller in countries with higher incomes that it is today.
Let's now look at how the gender advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The next chart shows the life expectancy of males and females at birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two distinct points stand out.

There is an upward trend: Men and women in the US live much, اضيق وضعية للجماع much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

There is a widening gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very small but it increased substantially over the last century.

By selecting 'Change Country' on the chart, check that these two points are also applicable to the other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.