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Why do women live longer than men?

Lora Helm (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. Why do women live much longer than men today and how is this difference growing in the past? The evidence is sketchy and we only have incomplete answers. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral and environmental variables that play an integral role in women living longer than males, it isn't clear how much each one contributes.

9 months agoWe are aware that women live longer than males, regardless of weight. But this is not due to the fact that certain non-biological aspects have changed. What are the factors that 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 صبغ الشعر بالاسود (glorynote.com) women. It is clear that every country is above the diagonal line of parity. This implies that a baby girl in all countries can expect to live longer than her younger brother.

This graph shows that although women have an advantage in all countries, the differences across countries could be significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men, while in Bhutan the gap is just half a year.

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In wealthy countries, the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let's see how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The next chart shows the male and female lifespans at birth in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Both genders in America have longer lives than they were 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And second, there is an ever-widening gap: female advantage in life expectancy used be quite small however, it has increased significantly over the course of the last century.

It is possible to verify that these points are also applicable to other countries that have data by clicking the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.