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? And how is this difference growing over time? The evidence is sketchy and we have only partial solutions. We are aware that behavioral, biological and environmental factors play a role in the fact that women have longer life spans than men, however, we aren’t sure how much the influence to each of these variables is.
We have learned that women are living longer than men, regardless of weight. However this isn’t because of certain non-biological factors have changed. What are these new factors? 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. As you can see, all countries are above the diagonal parity line ; this means that in all countries that a baby girl can be expected to live for longer than a newborn boy.1
This chart illustrates that, although women have an advantage everywhere, cross-country differences can be significant. In Russia, Sanctuaires.org/fr/index.php?title=Why_Women_Live_Longer_Than_Men (my response) women live for 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan the difference is less than half a calendar year.
In rich countries the advantage of women in longevity was smaller
Let’s examine how the female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows the male and female life expectancy at birth in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two points stand out.
There is an upward trend. Men as well as women in the US have a much longer life span longer than they did a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.
There is an ever-widening gap: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used be very small however it increased dramatically over the last century.
You can check if these principles are also applicable to other countries with data by clicking the «Change country» option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.