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 much longer than men today, and why has this advantage increased over time? The evidence is limited and we only have partial answers. We know that biological, behavioral and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women live longer than men; but we don’t know exactly how strong the relative contribution of each of these factors is.
Independently of the exact weight, we know that at least part of the reason why women live so much longer than men today, but not in the past, has to do with the fact that some key non-biological factors have changed. What are these sheffield sugar daddy websites changing factors? 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 men and women. As we can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line – this means in all countries a newborn girl can expect to live longer than a newborn boy. 1
Interestingly, this chart shows that while the female advantage exists everywhere, the cross-country differences are large. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men; in Bhutan the difference is less than half a year.
In rich countries the female advantage in longevity used to be smaller
Let’s now look at how the female advantage in longevity has changed over time. The next chart plots male and female life expectancy at birth in the US over the period 1790-2014. Two points stand out.
First, there is an upward trend: Men and women in the US live much, much longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
And second, there is a widening gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used to be very small, but it grew substantially over the last century.
Using the option ‘Change country’ on the chart, you can check that these two points also apply to the other countries with available data: Sweden, France and the UK.
(NB. In case you are curious, the big dip in life expectancy in the US around 1918 corresponds to the Spanish flu pandemic.)
The female advantage in life expectancy is partly, but not entirely, driven by higher chances of surviving childhood
In most countries child mortality is higher among boys than girls. 2 How much of the female advantage in longevity is really a story about male disadvantages in infant mortality?
In poor countries where child mortality is high, these sex differences in mortality are obviously an important factor driving differences in life expectancy. But in rich countries, where fewer children die, and where sex differences in infant mortality are very small, the male disadvantage in infant mortality cannot explain much of the observed differences in life expectancy.
Available evidence shows that child mortality rates in today’s rich countries were higher for male than female infants in the 19th century, and the male disadvantage in child mortality grew through the first half of the 20th century, as health outcomes improved. Similarly, maternal mortality in these countries used to be very high, and it atically over the 20th century.