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 more than men do today and why have these advantages gotten bigger in the past? The evidence is limited and we have only incomplete solutions. We know there are behavioral, biological, and environmental factors that play an integral role in women’s longevity more than males, we aren’t sure how much each one contributes.
Independently of the exact amount of weight, we are aware that at least part of the reason why women live so much longer than men today however not as in the past, is to be due to the fact that several key non-biological factors have changed. What are these factors that have changed? 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 from every country could anticipate to live longer than her younger brother.
It is interesting to note that although the female advantage exists in all countries, country-specific differences are huge. In Russia, women live 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan the gap is just half a year.
In countries with high incomes, the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let’s look at how female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The chart below illustrates the men and women’s life expectancies at birth in the US in the years 1790 to 2014. Two aspects stand out.
First, there’s an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US are living much, Ironblow.bplaced.net/index.php?mod=users&action=view&id=750818 much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
Second, the gap is growing: Although the female advantage in life expectancy used to be quite small It has significantly increased with time.
You can verify that these points are also applicable to other countries that have data by selecting the “Change country” option on the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.