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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. Why do women live longer than men in the present and how has this advantage increased in the past? There is only limited evidence and the evidence is not sufficient to draw a definitive conclusion. We know there are biological, behavioral as well as environmental factors that all play a role in women's longevity more than men, we don't know how much each factor contributes.

We have learned that women are living longer than men, regardless of their weight. However this is not due to the fact that certain biological or صبغ الشعر بالاسود 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. 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 ; this means in all countries baby girls can expect to live for longer than a newborn boy.1

This chart is interesting in that it shows that, while the advantage for women exists in all countries, global differences are significant. In Russia women have a longer life span than men, while in Bhutan the difference is just half each year.

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The advantage of women in life expectancy was less in countries with higher incomes as compared to the present.
Let's examine how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The following chart shows the gender-based and female-specific life expectancy at the time of birth in the US during the period 1790-2014. Two specific points stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Both genders in America have longer lives than they used to 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, there's an ever-widening gap: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be very modest however it increased dramatically in the past century.

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