Why women live longer than men?

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We know that women are living longer than males, regardless of weight. But, this is not due to the fact that certain 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. 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 women. We can see that every country is above the diagonal parity line – this means in all countries 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 while the female advantage is present everywhere, global differences are significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.



In rich countries the female advantage in longevity was not as great.

We will now examine how the female advantage in terms of longevity has changed over time. The chart below shows male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US from 1790 until 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

First, there is an upward trend: Men and women in the US have a much longer life span longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The second is that there is an ever-widening gap: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be extremely small, but it grew substantially during the last century.

You can confirm that these principles are also applicable to other countries that have data by selecting the “Change country” option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.