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Why are women living longer than men?

Marcos Flannery (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's the main reason women live longer than men? And why is this difference growing over time? We only have partial evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to support an informed conclusion. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors all play a role in the fact that women live longer than men; however, we aren't sure how much the influence of each one of these factors is.

Independently of the exact amount of weight, we are aware that at least part of the reason women live longer than men in the present but not in the past, is to have to do with the fact that a number of important non-biological aspects have changed. What are these factors that have changed? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Some 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. We can see that every country is above the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl in every country can be expected to live for longer than her brothers.

It is interesting to note that although the female advantage exists across all countries, the country-specific differences are huge. In Russia, women live 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan, the difference is less that half a year.

In wealthy countries, the advantage of women in longevity was smaller
Let's look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed over time. The next chart shows male and female life expectancies at birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Both genders in America have longer lives than they were a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And second, there is an increase in the gap between men and women: كيفية ممارسة العلاقة الزوجية فى الاسلام female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be very small but it increased substantially over the course of the last century.

You can check if these are applicable to other countries that have data by selecting the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and كيفية ممارسة العلاقة الزوجية فى الاسلام Sweden.