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 longer than men in the present and how have these advantages gotten bigger in the past? The evidence is limited and we have only incomplete answers. While we are aware that there are biological, volver behavioral as well as environmental factors which play a significant role in women’s longevity more than men, we don’t know what percentage each factor plays in.
In spite of the precise amount, we can say that at least a portion of the reason why women live so much longer than men do today and not previously, is to have to do with the fact that certain fundamental non-biological factors have changed. What are these changing factors? Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Some are more complex. 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. It is clear that all countries are over the diagonal line of parity. This implies that a baby girl in every country can expect to live longer than her brothers.
It is interesting to note that while the female advantage exists in all countries, country-specific differences are huge. In Russia women live 10 years longer than men, while in Bhutan the gap is less than half an hour.
The female advantage in life expectancy was much lower in developed countries than it is today.
Let’s look at how female longevity advantage has changed over time. The following chart shows male and female life expectancies when they were born in the US from 1790 to 2014. Two aspects stand out.
There is an upward trend: Men and women in the US live much, 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 be very modest however it increased dramatically during the last century.
You can verify that the points you’ve listed are applicable to other countries with data by clicking on the “Change country” option in the chart. This includes the UK, France, and Sweden.