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Females around the world have longer life expectancy than males. The reasons for this phenomenon remain unclear, but recent data suggest an important influence of immune system and hormonal effects on the life span in sexes.

The difference in longevity between sexes was noticed long ago. Women live longer than men in most countries around the world, with a mean difference of 4.2 years in lifespan. This difference is projected to increase to 4.8 years by the year 2050.

Around the world, 75% and 90% of people older than 100 years and 110 years, respectively, are women.

And the longest lived person officially recorded (122 years old) was woman as well. Nowadays, the only country in the globe where men live longer than women is Bangladesh! Likewise, the mortality rate is lower in young women compared with young men. In women, the mortality rate is lower at every age, even in childhood.

Mortality from all causes is higher among males

The reasons for the difference between male and female life expectancies are not fully understood. Certainly, hormonal and genetic factors have a prominent and complex role. Environmental and socioeconomic influences also weigh in. It is quite curious to note that female longevity superiority is quite widespread in the animal kingdom as well, meaning it is not just a human idiosyncrasy.

It is well documented that the excess mortality among men is mainly due to cardiovascular disease. Could this be it? As one researcher showed in 2006, for virtually all the most frequent causes of death, including accidents, cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and at virtually every age, males die at a higher rate. There is no single cause of death among the most common ones that afflicts the male gender more particularly than the other causes.

One thing that is interesting to note, thought, is that despite their lower mortality rates at virtually every age, women have higher overall rates of physical illness, more disability days, more doctor visits, and more hospital stays than do men.

For instances, arthritis, one of the most widespread, debilitating diseases, is significantly more common in the female population. The reasons why these sex differences exist are simply not known at the moment.

One other hypothesis addresses the possibility that men’s physiological mechanisms for aging just act quicker than women’s, i.e., men simply deteriorate at a higher rate than women. While there is a general consensus among the scientific community that this is not true, there is some indication that men tend to be less “robust” than women. In other words, "women do not live longer than men because they age slowly, but because they are more robust at every age”.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • REGAN, J. C. & PARTRIDGE, L. 2013. Gender and longevity: Why do men die earlier than women? Comparative and experimental evidence. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 1-13
  • AUSTAD, S. N. 2006. Why Women Live Longer Than Men: Sex Differences in Longevity. Gender Medicine, 3, 79-92
  • ESKES, T. & HAANEN, C. 2007. Why do women live longer than men? European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 133, 126-133
  • BLAGOSKLONNY, M. V. 2010. Why men age faster but reproduce longer than women: mTOR and evolutionary perspectives. Aging, 2, 265–273.
  • Photo courtesy of kayugee by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/kayugee/2286678246
  • Photo courtesy of Bromford by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/bromfordgroup/8691893391

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