Why do women live longer than men? - Chiloé Austral
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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 have a longer life span than men? Why does this benefit increase over time? We have only a small amount of evidence and the evidence isn’t sufficient to support an informed conclusion. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women live longer than men; however, we aren’t sure what the contribution of each factor is.

In spite of the precise number of pounds, we know that a large portion of the reason women live longer than men today and not in the past, has to be due to the fact that some fundamental non-biological factors have changed. These factors are changing. 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. We can see that every country is above the diagonal line of parity – 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 advantage for women is present everywhere, global differences are significant. In Russia women are 10 years older than men. In Bhutan the difference is less than half a year.



The advantage of women in terms of life expectancy was lower in countries with higher incomes than it is today.

Let’s examine the way that female advantages in longevity has changed over time. The chart below shows gender-based and female-specific life expectancy when they were born in the US during the period 1790 until 2014. Two specific points stand out.

First, there is an upward trend. Women and men living in America are living longer than they used to 100 years 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 life expectancy used be extremely small however it increased dramatically over the course of the last century.

If you select the option «Change country from the chart, you will be able to confirm that the two points are also applicable to other countries that have available data: Sweden, France and the UK.

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