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Why do women live longer than men?

Sienna Wunderly (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 is this difference growing over time? The evidence is sketchy and we only have some answers. While we are aware that there are behavioral, biological, and environmental factors that play an integral role in women living longer than males, we aren't sure how much each factor contributes.

Independently of the exact number of pounds, we know that at least part of the reason why women live longer than men in the present, but not previously, has to be due to the fact that several key non-biological factors have changed. These factors are changing. 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, علامات الحمل بولد every country is above the diagonal line of parity - this means in all countries that a baby girl can be expected to live longer than a new boy.1

This graph shows that even though women enjoy an advantage in all countries, the differences across countries can be significant. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the difference is just half an hour.

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The female advantage in life expectancy was smaller in developed countries than it is now.
Let's take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The next chart plots male and female life expectancies at birth in the US during the time period between 1790 and 2014. Two aspects stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Women and men in America have longer lives than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, the gap is widening: While the female advantage in life expectancy was once very small, it has increased substantially over time.

It is possible to verify that these principles are also applicable to other countries with data by clicking on the "Change country" option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.