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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 makes women live longer than men and how have these advantages gotten bigger over time? We only have partial evidence and the evidence is not sufficient to support an informed conclusion. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women live longer than men; but we don't know exactly how strong the relative contribution to each of these variables is.

1987226064543824128.jpgWe know that women live longer than men, regardless of their weight. However, this is not due to the fact that certain biological factors have changed. These 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 women. We can see that all countries are over the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl from any country can expect to live longer than her older brother.

The chart above shows that although the female advantage is present everywhere, cross-country differences are large. In Russia, women live 10 years more than males. In Bhutan the difference is less that half a year.

The advantage women had in life expectancy was much lower in rich countries than it is now.
Let's take a look at 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 between 1790 and 2014. Two specific points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. as well as women in the US have a much longer life span longer today than a century 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 to be very small however, it has increased significantly in the past century.

It is possible to verify that the points you've listed are applicable to other countries with data by clicking on the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and تحاميل مهبلية ( Sweden.