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? What is the reason the advantage has grown in the past? There is only limited evidence and the evidence is not sufficient to reach an unambiguous conclusion. Although we know that there are behavioral, biological and Beauval.co.uk/index.php/Why_Do_Women_Live_Longer_Than_Men environmental variables that all play a role in women who live longer than males, it isn’t clear the extent to which each factor plays a role.
We have learned that women live longer than men, regardless of their weight. But it is not due to the fact that certain biological factors have changed. What are these new 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. It is clear that all countries are above the diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl in every country can anticipate to live longer than her brother.
This chart illustrates that, although women have an advantage in all countries, the differences across countries can be significant. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.
In rich countries the women’s advantage in longevity was not as great.
Let’s examine how the advantage of women in longevity has changed with time. The chart below shows male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US in the years 1790 until 2014. Two distinct features stand out.
First, there’s an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US have a much longer life span longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
Second, the gap is increasing: While the advantage of women in life expectancy used to be tiny however, it has grown significantly over time.
By selecting ‘Change Country from the chart, you can verify that these two points are applicable to other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.