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Why do women 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. What makes women live more than men do today, and why has this advantage increased over time? The evidence is sketchy and we have only incomplete solutions. While we are aware that there are biological, behavioral and environmental factors that all play a role in women living longer than males, it isn't clear what percentage each factor plays in.

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, but not previously, is to have to do with the fact that several fundamental 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. Others 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.

Everywhere 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 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 older brother.

This chart illustrates that, even though women enjoy an advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries are often significant. In Russia women live 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the gap is only half a year.

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In the richer countries, the female advantage in longevity used to be smaller
Let's look at how female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows male and female life expectancy at birth in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two points stand out.

First, there's an upward trend. and women in the US are living much, 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 growing: Although the advantage of women in terms of life expectancy was quite small, it has increased substantially with time.

67ddb6ea4a5a9f49a53eb69a646b8a6b.jpgUsing the option 'Change country by country' in the chart, confirm that the two points are applicable to other countries that have available data: Sweden, France and العاب زوجية the UK.