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 is the reason women live longer than men, and why has this advantage increased in the past? We only have a few clues and the evidence isn’t sufficient to reach an unambiguous conclusion. While we are aware that there are biological, psychological as well as environmental factors which all play a part in women who live longer than men, we do not know the extent to which each factor plays a role.

We are aware that women are living longer than men, regardless of their weight. However it is not because of certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. What are the factors that are changing? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Certain 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 Ours.co.in/wiki/index.php/Why_Women_Live_Longer_Than_Men women. We can see that every country is over the diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl in every country can anticipate to live longer than her brother.

The chart above shows that while the female advantage exists across all countries, the country-specific differences are huge. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men, while in Bhutan the gap is just half a year.



In wealthy countries, the female advantage in longevity used to be smaller

Let’s see how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The next chart shows male and female life expectancy at birth in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two things stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend. Men and women in the US are living much, much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is getting wider: Although the female advantage in life expectancy used to be very small however, it has grown significantly in the past.

When you click on the option “Change country’ on the chart, you will be able to check that these two points also apply to other countries with available data: Sweden, France and the UK.

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