Why do women live longer than men?

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 does this benefit increase in the past? The evidence is limited and we’re only able to provide incomplete solutions. Although we know that there are behavioral, biological as well as environmental factors which all play a part in the longevity of women over males, we aren’t sure the extent to which each factor plays a role.

We know that women are living longer than men, regardless of their weight. However this isn’t because of certain biological or 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. As we can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line , it means that in all nations the newborn girl is likely to live longer than a new boy.1

This graph shows that although there is a women’s advantage everywhere, cross-country differences are often significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men; in Bhutan the gap is just half a year.



In wealthy countries, the longevity advantage for women was smaller

Let’s take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows male and female life expectancies at birth in the US between 1790 and 2014. Two distinct points stand out.

There is an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US live much, much longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, Glorynote.com the gap is growing: Although the advantage of women in life expectancy was extremely small however, it has grown significantly with time.

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

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