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Why do women live longer than men?

Jetta Tedesco (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 is the reason women live longer than men? Why does this benefit increase over time? The evidence isn't conclusive and we're left with only limited solutions. While we are aware that there are biological, psychological and environmental factors that play an integral role in women living longer than men, we do not know how much each factor contributes.

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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 the newborn girl is likely to live longer than a new boy.1

Interestingly, this chart shows that the advantage of women is present everywhere, cross-country differences are large. In Russia women live for 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan there is a difference of less than half a calendar year.

The advantage of women in life expectancy was less in rich countries as compared to the present.
Let's now look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed over time. The chart below shows male and female life expectancies when they were born in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

First, there's an upward trend. as well as women in the US are living much, 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 getting wider: Although the female advantage in terms of life expectancy was quite small It has significantly increased over time.

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