Why do women live longer than men?

Why do women live longer than men?

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Women live on average 4 years and six months longer than men.

No matter where you are in the world, women live longer than men.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016 the average life expectancy at birth of the world population was 72 years.

But when we divide this average between men and women, the average female is 74 years and two months against the 69 years and eight months of the males.

A group of centenarians before the meeting with the Mayor of Rome in 2018
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Women are more likely than men to celebrate their 100th birthday

 

According to the 2010 census, there were 53,364 people in the United States who are over 100 years old. Of these, only 9 162 were men , compared to 44 202 women

But why do women live longer than men ? Where does this advantage come from?

These are the three main reasons.

1. Genes

The Human Mortality Index currently has information on 40 countries, including data from Sweden and France dating from 1751 and 1816.

But information from countries such as Japan and Russia is available as only since the mid-twentieth century.

Illustration of human chromosomes
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Women have chromosomes XX

 

Even so, the life expectancy of women at birth exceeds that of men in all countries and in all years.

It seems that men have always lived a little less than women, among other reasons, because of their genetic makeup.

“Male embryos die at a higher rate than female embryos,” says Professor David Gems of University College London.

One possible reason could be the role played by the chromosomes that determine our sex.

Women have XX chromosomes and men have XY.

Chromosomes contain genes. And the X chromosomes have many genes that help you stay alive.

White storks seen in Madrid
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Male birds have two copies of X chromosomes

 

“If you have a genetic defect on the X chromosome and you are a woman, you have a backup, but if you are a man you do not have a backup, ” geneticist David Gems explains to the BBC’s Crowd Science radio program.

“Male babies are 20 to 30 percent more likely to die in the later stages of pregnancy, they are also 14 percent more likely to be born prematurely, tend to be larger and suffer a higher risk of injury during delivery, “says Lorna Harries, a professor at the University of Exeter.

Interesting fact: male birds have two copies of X chromosomes and tend to live longer than females.

2. Hormones

During adolescence, children become men and girls become women as a result of hormonal changes.

Women in a cemetery in Kabul
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption The majority of war dead are men.

 

Testosterone, which makes the body bigger and stronger, is responsible for most of the masculine characteristics, such as the deepest voice or the hairiest chest.

The mortality rate in males increases drastically in the last years of adolescence , when their testosterone levels rise.

According to experts, this may be due to the high-risk activities that some men practice, such as fighting and driving bicycles and cars at very high speeds,

A few years ago, the Korean scientist Han-Nam Park analyzed the records of the Imperial Court of the Chosun Dynasty of the 19th century.

The scientist compared the life expectancy of 81 eunuchs (who had been castrated before puberty) with the other men of the court.

Their analysis revealed that the eunuchs lived around the age of 70 , compared to an average of only 50 years among the other men in the court.

Three eunuchs even celebrated their 100th birthday.

Although not all studies of other types of eunuchs have shown such pronounced differences, it generally appears that people (and animals) without testicles live longer.

The female sex hormone estrogen also acts as an “antioxidant,” meaning it absorbs poisonous chemicals that cause stress in cells.

In experiments with animals, females that lack estrogen tend not to live as long as those that do still have the female sex hormone.

Illustration of Human Heart
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption The female sex hormone helps fight the bad cholesterol that causes heart disease

 

Estrogen also facilitates the elimination of bad cholesterol and, therefore, may offer some protection against heart disease.

3. Occupation and behavior

In places plagued by conflict, male life expectancy decreases with speed .

But in regions where medical care is inadequate, many women die during childbirth.

Factors such as smoking, drinking and poor nutrition may explain in part why the difference in the average life of men and women is greater in some countries than in others.

In Russia, men die 13 years earlier than women . This may be due to excessive consumption of alcohol in this country.

And also, living longer is not necessarily an advantage.

Although women live longer, they also suffer more diseases, particularly in their last years of life.

An elderly woman in wheelchair inside a hospital in Cardiff, UK
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Women visit the hospital more frequently than men

 

Women between 16 and 60 go to the doctor more frequently than men of the same age in several countries.

According to an article published in the biomedical journal Cell Press by Steven Austad and Kathleen Fischer of the University of Alabama, “in Western societies women visit more to the doctor, take more medications, lose more days of work for health reasons and spend more days in the hospital than men. “

“In Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand and Tunisia, women also have more physical limitations than men in their last years of life.”

Recent studies indicate that the gender gap in life expectancy will close in the near future.

Children in a UK school
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption The gender gap in life expectancy will close in the next two decades in the United Kingdom

 

A study conducted by Imperial College London says the gap in life expectancy between women and men will be only one year and nine months in 2030 in the United Kingdom.

A baby boy born today in the United Kingdom could expect to live 79 years and two months , while a newborn girl will probably live 82 years and nine months, according to the Bureau of National Statistics.

Another study suggests that male and female life expectancy will converge by 2032.

” The decrease in the consumption of alcohol and tobacco has benefited mostly men, who tend to drink and smoke more than women,” said the professor of statistics at the Cass Business School, Les Mayhew, to the British newspaper The Guardian.

“We have also made great strides in the fight against heart disease, which is more common in men, ” he added.

And deaths related to traffic accidents are also decreasing in many countries, which should also help add additional years to the lives of men.

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Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.

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