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Why do women have longer lives 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 why women are more likely to live longer than men? Why does this benefit increase in the past? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to draw an informed conclusion. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral and environmental variables that all play a role in women living longer than males, we aren't sure how much each factor contributes.

In spite of the precise number of pounds, we know that at least part of the reason women live longer than men today, but not previously, has to be due to the fact that certain fundamental 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. Others 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 every country is above the diagonal parity line ; it means that in all nations baby girls can expect to live longer than a new boy.1

This chart is interesting in that it shows that, while the advantage for women exists everywhere, the global differences are significant. In Russia women are 10 years older than men; in Bhutan the difference is just half each year.

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The female advantage in life expectancy was smaller in the richer countries than it is today.
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below shows male and female life expectancy at birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

First, العاب زوجية there is an upward trend: Men as well as women in the US live a lot, much longer than they did 100 years 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 tiny, it has increased substantially with time.

Using the option 'Change country by country' in the chart, you are able to confirm that the two points apply to the other countries having available data: Sweden, France and the UK.