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. Why do women live so much longer than men today, and why has this advantage increased over time? We only have a few clues and the evidence isn’t sufficient to draw an informed conclusion. We know there are biological, psychological and environmental factors that all play a role in women living longer than men, we do not know how much each one contributes.

We are aware that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. However this is not because of certain biological or non-biological factors 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. As you can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line , this means in all countries the newborn girl is likely to live for longer than a new boy.1

This graph shows that although there is a women’s advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries could be significant. In Russia women live 10 years more than men. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.

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In countries with high incomes, the advantage of women in longevity used to be smaller

Let’s look at how female longevity advantage has changed over time. The chart below shows male and female life expectancy at the time of birth in the US from 1790 until 2014. Two specific points stand Glorynote.com out.

First, there is an upward trend. Men and women in the United States live longer than they used to 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The gap is increasing: While the female advantage in life expectancy was tiny, it has increased substantially with time.

You can verify that the points you’ve listed are applicable to other countries with data by clicking the “Change country” option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.

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