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 does this benefit increase over time? There is only limited evidence and the evidence is not sufficient to reach an informed conclusion. While we are aware that there are biological, behavioral as well as environmental factors which all play a part in women living longer than men, we don’t know how much each one contributes.
It is known that women live longer than men, regardless of weight. However this isn’t due to the fact that certain biological or non-biological factors have changed. The factors changing are numerous. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Other 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. We can see that every country is over the diagonal line of parity. This means that a newborn girl in all countries can be expected to live for longer than her older brother.
The chart below shows that although women have an advantage everywhere, glorynote.com cross-country differences are often significant. In Russia, women live for 10 years longer than males. In Bhutan the difference is just half a year.
In wealthy countries, the longevity advantage for women used to be smaller
Let’s take a look at how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows the life expectancy of males and females when they were born in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two specific points stand out.
First, there’s an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US live a lot, much longer than they did 100 years ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
There is an increasing gap: The female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be extremely small but it increased substantially over the last century.
By selecting ‘Change Country from the chart, you can check that these two points are applicable to the other countries with available data: Sweden, France and the UK.