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Why do women live longer than men?

Jett Alvarado (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 is the reason women live much longer than men today and why has this advantage increased in the past? The evidence is sketchy and we have only limited answers. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women live longer than men; however, we aren't sure how much the influence of each of these factors is.

It is known that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. However it is not because of certain biological factors have changed. What are these new factors? 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 , which means that in every country that a baby girl can be expected to live for longer than a new boy.1

The chart below shows that even though women enjoy an advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries are often significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.

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The advantage women had in life expectancy was less in countries with higher incomes as compared to the present.
We will now examine how the advantage of women in longevity has changed over time. The next chart shows male and female life expectancy at birth in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two specific points stand out.

There is an upward trend: Men and women in the US live much, much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And صبغ الشعر بالاسود second, there is a widening gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used to be very modest, but it grew substantially over the last century.

By selecting 'Change Country by country' in the chart, you can confirm that the two points apply to other countries that have available data: Sweden, France and the UK.