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Why do women live longer than men?

Hassie Blaze (2022-04-21)

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 longer than men and how does this benefit increase in the past? The evidence is sketchy and we have only incomplete answers. While we are aware that there are biological, psychological and environmental variables which play a significant role in the longevity of women over men, we do not know how much each factor contributes.

We have learned that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. However this isn't because of certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. These factors are changing. 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. As you can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line , this means in all countries that a baby girl can be expected to live for longer than a newborn boy.1

This graph shows that although there is a women's advantage everywhere, cross-country differences can be substantial. In Russia women live 10 years more than males. In Bhutan the difference is just half a year.

In rich countries the longevity advantage for women was previously smaller.
Let's look at how the female advantage in longevity has changed with time. The next chart plots the life expectancy of males and females at birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two specific points stand out.

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

And second, there is a widening gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be quite small however, it has increased significantly over the last century.

You can check if these principles are also applicable to other countries with information by clicking on the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and زيوت تطويل الشعر Sweden.