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 women live longer than men? And how does this benefit increase over time? We only have a few clues and the evidence is not sufficient to draw an informed conclusion. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all play a role in the fact that women have longer lives than men, ????? ????? However, we’re not sure how strong the relative contribution to each of these variables is.

Independently of the exact weight, we know that a large portion of the reason why women live so much longer than men, but not in the past, is to relate to the fact that a number of significant non-biological elements have changed. These factors are changing. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. There are others that are more intricate. 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 above the diagonal parity line , it means that in all nations a newborn girl can expect to live longer than a newborn boy.1

The chart above shows that the advantage of women is present everywhere, difference between countries is huge. In Russia women live for 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.

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In wealthy countries, the female advantage in longevity was smaller

Let’s examine how the female longevity advantage has changed in the course of time. The next chart plots male and female life expectancy when they were born in the US during the time period between 1790 and 2014. Two points stand out.

There is an upward trend. as well as women in the US have a much longer life span longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

And second, there is an increasing gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used be extremely small however, it has increased significantly over the last century.

If you select the option «Change country from the chart, confirm that the two points are also applicable to the other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.

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