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 gotten larger over time? We only have a few clues and the evidence isn’t sufficient to support an unambiguous conclusion. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the fact that women have longer lives than men, اضيق وضعية للجماع but we don’t know exactly how strong the relative contribution of each of these factors is.

Independently of the exact amount, we can say that at least a portion of the reason why women live so much longer than men in the present and not in the past, has to relate to the fact that several important non-biological aspects have changed. What are these changing factors? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Some 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 you can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line – which means that in every country that a baby girl can be expected to live for longer than a new boy.1

This chart is interesting in that it shows that although the female advantage is present everywhere, difference between countries is huge. In Russia women have a longer life span than men, while in Bhutan the gap is less than half each year.

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In rich countries the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller

Let’s take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows the men and women’s life expectancies at birth in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. Both genders in America have longer lives than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

There is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in life expectancy used to be quite small, but it grew substantially in the past century.

You can confirm that these are applicable to other countries with information by clicking on the “Change country” option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.

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