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Why are women living longer 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 is the reason women have a longer life span than men? What is the reason the advantage has grown in the past? We only have partial evidence and the evidence isn't sufficient to reach a definitive conclusion. Although we know that there are biological, behavioral, and environmental factors which play a significant role in women living longer than men, we don't know how much each one contributes.

We are aware that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. However this is not due to the fact that certain non-biological aspects have changed. What are the factors that 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 you can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line - which means that in every country a newborn girl can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

The chart below shows that while there is a female advantage in all countries, the differences across countries are often significant. In Russia, women live for 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan the gap is just half a year.

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In countries with high incomes, ابر التخسيس the longevity advantage for women was smaller
Let's now look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed over time. The next chart shows the male and female lifespans at birth in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two areas stand out.

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

And second, there is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very small, but it grew substantially over the last century.

You can check if these principles are also applicable to other countries with information by clicking on the "Change country" option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.