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Why do women live longer than men?

Merlin Dunstan (2022-04-22)


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's the reason women live longer than men? And why does this benefit increase in the past? The evidence isn't conclusive and we only have limited solutions. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women live longer than men; however, we do not know what the contribution to each of these variables is.

It is known that women live longer than men, regardless of weight. However it is not because of certain non-biological aspects have changed. The factors changing are numerous. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others are more complicated. 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 we can see, every country is above the diagonal line of parity - this means in all countries baby girls can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

This chart is interesting in that it shows that the advantage of women exists across all countries, the global differences are significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men; in Bhutan the gap is just half an hour.

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In countries with high incomes, the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
We will now examine how the female advantage in longevity has changed over time. The next chart plots male and female life expectancy at birth in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two points stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. Both genders in the United States live longer than they were a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is increasing: While the advantage of women in life expectancy used to be very small It has significantly increased in the past.

You can confirm that these principles are also applicable to other countries that have data by selecting the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, زيوت تطويل الشعر France, and Sweden.