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 in the present and why have these advantages gotten bigger in the past? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to draw an absolute conclusion. While we are aware that there are behavioral, biological and environmental variables that play an integral role in women living longer than males, it isn’t clear how much each factor contributes.
In spite of the amount, we can say that at least a portion of the reason women live longer than men today but not previously, is to have to do with the fact that certain fundamental non-biological factors have changed. These variables are evolving. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others 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. We can see that every country is over the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl from any country can anticipate to live longer than her older brother.
The chart below shows that although women have an advantage throughout the world, the differences between countries can be substantial. In Russia, women live for 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan the difference is only half a year.
In the richer countries, the women’s advantage in longevity was previously smaller.
Let’s look at how the advantage of women in life expectancy has changed over time. The chart below illustrates the male and female life expectancy at the time of birth in the US between 1790 until 2014. Two aspects stand out.
First, there’s an upward trend: Men as well as women in the US are living much, Urbanexplorationwiki.com/index.php/User:TabathaHakala (2aro.com) much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
The second is that there is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be extremely small however, it has increased significantly in the past century.
When you click on the option «Change country in the chart, you will be able to verify that these two points are applicable to other countries that have available data: Sweden, France and the UK.