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Why are women living 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 in the present and how have these advantages gotten bigger in the past? The evidence is limited and we're left with only some solutions. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women are healthier than men; however, we aren't sure what the contribution of each factor is.

We know that women live longer than men, regardless of weight. However, this is not due to the fact that certain 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. 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 تحاميل مهبلية 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, all countries are above the diagonal line of parity - it means that in all nations a newborn girl can expect to live longer than a new boy.1

This graph shows that even though women enjoy an advantage everywhere, cross-country differences are often significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men; in Bhutan the gap is less than half a year.

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The female advantage in life expectancy was much lower in countries with higher incomes than it is now.
Let's look at how female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The next chart shows the life expectancy of males and females when they were born in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two distinct features stand out.

There is an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US live a lot, 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 a widening gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be very modest, but it grew substantially in the past century.

47101472804_202f3d135c.jpgIf you select the option "Change country in the chart, you can determine if these two points apply to the other countries with available data: Sweden, France and the UK.