I can't find any data/study bringing some light to the components of the life expectancy gender gap. But this should't be difficult:

  • Men suffer many more accidents and suicides, these are clearly not biological factors, it should be easy to calculate life expectancy gap excluding these.

  • Men abuse alcohol and tobacco more than women, it should be possible to compare life expectancy for non-smokers and non-drinkers only.

Please let me know if you know of any study.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Men suffer many more accidents and suicides, these are clearly not biological factors debatable. Perhaps men have a higher 'biological' instinct to commit suicide or do risky things. Fundamentally, I don't think there's a possible distinction to be made between things which are 'purely' biological or social. $\endgroup$
    – user438383
    Sep 28, 2023 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ Agree with user438383. Social factors are biological factors manifested in interpersonal behaviors. If what you mean is something about physiology that intrinsically differs between men and women, somehow excluding (or at least statistically adjusting for) social factors... maybe. (This isn't a judgment on you, people in general are sloppy when they talk about this.) In any case, there are multiple studies that can be found readily, in one second of googling I found this. There are a ton of references in there. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2023 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


I like your question, and it got me looking for some answers to similar questions I've been thinking about too.

I don't have the full answer; the exact disparity between specific hormones and the differences between mood regulation, but I do have a pretty good research paper that looked into this.

I'd highly recommend anyone and everyone to read it - it's free to access, and even if you only read the abstract you may hopefully take something from it.

In summary though, to answer your question, there seems to be due to (as you said) riskier decision making, but just in young men, and increased stress levels in middle aged men.

I guess the men who make it through to old age (due to socioeconomic, genetic/epigenetic reasons or just pure luck) managed to not be situated on the upper end of either of these spectrums of risk taking and physical stress response, as is most likely thanks to selection pressures. However, these high mortality-linked traits have not entirely been bred out of our populations around the world as many of these high-mortality-associated men do live long enough to pass on their genome, of which some, (roughly half, on average), will be inherited.

These physical, inheritable traits are a bit like radioactive decay: They will decline in the population over many many generations if nothing else happens, but they will never truly disappear. And the problem is that the way that society works is it does in fact exert an external force on many people, pushing them towards making risky decisions (e.g. gambling, impulse buying expensive items on a pay £0 today finance deals et cetera) and to experience much higher daily levels of stress than people can cope with day-to-day. There may even possibly be epigenetic modifications occurring in individuals that would possibly be passed down to offspring if that is the case. This, I believe, alongside the increased media attention recently on mental health, is why we are seeing much more of it these days than ever before, unfortunately.

Anyway, here's the paper: Economic Transition, Male Competition, and Sex Differences in Mortality Rates

I hope you enjoy reading it, and if you have any follow-up questions I'd be more than happy to try to answer them.

  • $\begingroup$ The paper is so close, yet never gives the ratio of internal to external causes. $\endgroup$ Oct 4, 2023 at 6:46

I dug into Eurostat's Causes of Death statistics to come up with this napkin calculation. (I am not a statistician, do not take this data at face value.)

  • 2010 Norway - all LEGG: 4.54
  • 2010 France - all LEGG: 7.14

Minus mechanical causes: suicides, assaults, accidents and drug and alcohol overdoses, etc.

  • 2010 Norway - all LEGG: 4.54 | non-mechanical LEGG: 3,51, decrease by 29.5%
  • 2010 France - all LEGG: 7.14 | non-mechanical LEGG: 6.19, decrease by 15.3%

Assuming that smoking reduces the life expectancy on average by 10 yers and smoking rate among French men and women are 0.349 and 0.319 and smoking rate among Norwegian men and women are 0.17 and 0.154, I reduced the LEGG further:

  • 2010 Norway - all LEGG: 4.54 | non-mechanical, non-smoking LEGG: 3,35, decrease by 35.7%
  • 2010 France - all LEGG: 7.14 | non-mechanical, non-smoking LEGG: 5.89, decrease by 21.2%

It should be possible to do this for alcohol, meat consumption, and many other causes. Again, I am surprised that I can't find any such research.


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