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Why women live longer than men?

Tawanna Cates (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 longer than men? And why is this difference growing over time? There isn't much evidence and we're left with only some solutions. While we are aware that there are behavioral, biological and environmental variables which play a significant role in the longevity of women over males, we aren't sure how much each factor contributes.

It is known that women live longer than males, regardless of weight. But this is not due to the fact that certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. These are the factors that 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.

12154166236_fc89701f9b.jpgEverywhere in the world women tend to live longer than men
The first chart below shows life expectancy at birth for men and women. As we can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line , this means that in all countries the newborn girl is likely to live longer than a new boy.1

This graph shows that while there is a female advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries are often significant. In Russia women are 10 years older than males; while in Bhutan the difference is just half each year.

The advantage of women in life expectancy was smaller in countries with higher incomes that it is today.
Let's take a look at 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 genders in the United States live longer than they used to 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is widening: While the female advantage in life expectancy used to be extremely small, it has increased substantially in the past.

You can check if these points are also applicable to other countries with information by clicking on the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, تحاميل مهبلية France, and Sweden.