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 main reason women live longer than men? Why does this benefit increase as time passes? We only have partial evidence and the evidence is not sufficient to draw an unambiguous conclusion. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all contribute to the fact that women live longer than men; However, we’re not sure how significant the impact of each of these factors is.
In spite of how much amount of weight, we are aware that at least part of the reason why women live longer than men in the present and not in the past, has to do with the fact that a number of key 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. 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. As you can see, every country is above the diagonal parity line – this means that in all countries the newborn girl is likely to live longer than a newborn boy.1
The chart above shows that while the female advantage exists everywhere, the cross-country differences are large. In Russia women have a longer life span than males; while in Bhutan the gap is less than half a year.
The advantage of women in terms of life expectancy was lower in countries with higher incomes than it is now.
Let’s look at how the gender advantage in longevity has changed over time. The following chart shows the male and female life expectancies at the time of birth in the US between 1790 to 2014. Two specific points stand out.
First, there’s an upward trend. Men and women in the US live a lot, Glorynote.com (xwest.net) much longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
The second is that there is an increasing gap: The female advantage in life expectancy used to be very small however, it has increased significantly over the course of the last century.
It is possible to verify that these points are also applicable to other countries that have information by clicking on the “Change country” option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.