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Why women live longer than men?

Ava Scutt (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 is this difference growing over time? We have only a small amount of evidence and the evidence isn't strong enough to make an unambiguous conclusion. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all play a role in the fact that women have longer lives than men, however, we aren't sure how much the influence of each one of these factors is.

In spite of the amount, we can say that a large portion of the reason women live longer than men do today, but not in the past, is to be due to the fact that some key non-biological factors have changed. What are these changing factors? 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 parity line ; which means that in every country baby girls can expect to live for longer than a new boy.1

This chart illustrates that, although women have an advantage across all countries, differences between countries could be significant. In Russia, women live 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan, the difference is just half a year.

In the richer countries, the longevity advantage for women was previously smaller.
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The next chart shows male and female life expectancy at birth in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two areas stand out.

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

The second is that there is an ever-widening gap: اضيق وضعية للجماع female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be quite small, but it grew substantially during the last century.

Using the option 'Change country' on the chart, verify that these two points are also applicable to other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.