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Why are women living longer than men?

Ava Scutt (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 in the past? There isn't much evidence and we have only incomplete answers. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women are healthier than men; however, we aren't sure what the contribution to each of these variables is.

Independently of the exact amount of weight, we are aware that at a minimum, the reason why women live so much longer than men today but not in the past, is to have to do with the fact that a number of key non-biological factors have changed. What are these new factors? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. There are others that are more intricate. 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 every country is above the line of parity diagonally. This means that a newborn girl in every country can expect to live longer than her brother.

This chart shows that, while there is a female advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries can be significant. In Russia women live 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the gap is less that half a year.

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The female advantage in terms of life expectancy was lower in developed countries as compared to the present.
We will now examine how the female advantage in life expectancy has changed over time. The chart below shows gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the time of birth in the US from 1790 until 2014. Two areas stand out.

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

tafsiribnukatsirmuhaqqoq001-110113010227Second, the gap is growing: Although the female advantage in life expectancy was very small It has significantly increased in the past.

You can confirm that the points you've listed are applicable to other countries that have data by clicking the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, صبغ الشعر بالاسود France, and Sweden.