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Why women are more likely to live longer than men?

Wilford Tufnell (2022-04-23)


1 year agoEverywhere 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 makes women live much longer than men today and why have these advantages gotten bigger over time? The evidence isn't conclusive and we're only able to provide incomplete answers. We recognize that biological, behavioral and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women have longer life spans than men, however, we aren't sure how strong the relative contribution to each of these variables is.

It is known that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. However this is not because of certain non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. 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, every country is above the diagonal parity line - this means in all countries the newborn girl is likely to live for longer than a newborn boy.1

This graph shows that even though women enjoy an advantage in all countries, the differences across countries are often significant. In Russia women have an average of 10 years more than men. In Bhutan the gap is less than half a year.

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In rich countries the female advantage in longevity used to be smaller
We will now examine 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 1790-2014. Two specific points stand out.

There is an upward trend. Men and women in the United States live longer than they were a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The second is that there is an increasing gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used be quite small but it increased substantially in the past century.

Using the option 'Change country by country' in the chart, ابر التخسيس you will be able to verify that these two points apply to other countries that have available information: Sweden, France and the UK.