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Why do women live longer than men?

Kimberly Castleberry (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 longer than men in the present, and why is this difference growing over time? The evidence is sketchy and we're only able to provide partial answers. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral as well as environmental factors which play a significant role in women who live longer than men, we don't know how much each one contributes.

In spite of the weight, we know that at least part of the reason women live longer than men today however not as in the past, has to have to do with the fact that several key non-biological factors have changed. The factors changing are numerous. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. There are other issues 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 diagonal line of parity - it means that in all nations baby girls can expect to live longer than a new boy.1

This graph shows that although there is a women's advantage across all countries, differences between countries can be significant. In Russia women have a longer life span than men, while in Bhutan the difference is less than half an hour.

The advantage of women in life expectancy was smaller in countries with higher incomes as compared to the present.
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The chart below illustrates the male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Men and women in the United States live longer than they used to a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is getting wider: Although the female advantage in life expectancy used to be tiny but it has risen significantly in the past.

It is possible to verify that these are applicable to other countries with data by selecting the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, صبغ الشعر بالاسود and Sweden.