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. Why do women live longer than men, and why is this difference growing in the past? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to draw an unambiguous conclusion. Although we know that there are biological, psychological as well as environmental factors that play an integral role in women who live longer than men, we don’t know how much each one contributes.

We are aware that women are living longer than men, regardless of their weight. But, this is not because of certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. These are the factors that 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 كيفية ممارسة العلاقة الزوجية فى الاسلام (question.forex.pm) men and women. We can see that all countries are above the diagonal line of parity – it means that in all nations a newborn girl can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

The chart above shows that, while the advantage for women exists across all countries, the global differences are significant. In Russia women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.



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

Let’s examine how the advantage of women in terms of longevity has changed over time. The chart below shows men and women’s life expectancies at birth in the US between 1790 to 2014. Two areas stand out.

First, there’s an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US live much, much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

Second, there’s an increasing gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very small but it increased substantially over the last century.

If you select the option “Change country from the chart, you are able to verify that these two points are applicable to the other countries with available data: Sweden, France and the UK.