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’s the reason why women live longer than men? And why does this benefit increase over time? The evidence is limited and we have only some answers. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all play a role in the fact that women are healthier than men; however, we do not know how much the influence of each of these factors is.
Independently of the exact amount of weight, we are aware that at least a portion of the reason women live longer than men however not as previously, has to relate to the fact that certain significant non-biological elements have changed. The factors changing are numerous. 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 all countries are over the line of parity diagonally. This means that a newborn girl in all countries can expect to live longer than her brother.
Interestingly, this chart shows that although the female advantage exists across all countries, the difference between countries is huge. In Russia women have a longer life span than men; in Bhutan the difference is just half a year.
In wealthy countries, the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let’s see how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below illustrates the male and female life expectancy at birth in the US during the period 1790 to 2014. Two points stand out.
First, there is an upward trend. Women and men in America have longer lives than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
The gap is increasing: While the female advantage in terms of life expectancy was tiny, it has increased substantially in the past.
Using the option ‘Change country in the chart, you will be able to confirm that the two points are also applicable to other countries that have available information: موقع تزويد مشاهدات Sweden, France and the UK.