I've been checking life expectancy figures for men versus women in many countries of the world and the figures for men sometimes are terrifying. Countries like Russia have a 12 years gap in disfavor of men. Developed countries have usually a 4-5 years gap in disfavor of men. My country Argentina has a 7 years gap. African countries and middle east countries where supposedly women have a harder life because of religion have usually a 3 years gap in disfavor of men. So far I haven't found a single country where men lives more than women.

Now I know there are more men than women who dies in homicides, suicides, work accidents, wars, etc. men are more likely to get addictions because of depression, etc. but aside of all that, is there any biological reason why men lives less than women everywhere?


There are both biological and social factor for that:


  • Females have two X chromosomes. When mutations in genes of the X chromosome occur, females have a second X to compensate. Males, on the other hand gave just one chromosome X and all genes its genes express themselves, even those lethal or deleterious.
  • Females have better resistance to biological aging and hormones and the role of women in reproduction are known to be associated to greater longevity (e.g. estrogen offers some protection against heart disease because it facilitates elimination of bad cholesterol while testosterone has been linked to violence and risk taking).
  • The female body evolved to accommodate the needs of pregnancy and breast feeding hence deals better with making reservation. This ability has been linked to a female's better ability to cope with overeating and eliminating excess food


This "advantage" women seem to have was once nullified by the status and life conditions they had back then, as the risks and the burden of pregnancy and the lack of attention to health and rights women had in a way more misogynist world.

Given the economic, social and political changes that the world experienced, a general progress in female life conditions took place and women have not only regained their biological advantage, but have gone beyond it, achieving higher life expectation. Social and comportamental factor are involved in this higher longevity:

  • Women tend to engage in fewer risky and bad for health behaviors than men do, e.g. men have more problems than women with alcoholism, smoking and road accidents.
  • The world is still very sexist and the gender roles to be played would expose men to higher risks. Regarding to work, for instance, although women nowadays participate in the work force, their professional activities remain different and are less prejudicial to their health (on average).
  • Also regarding to very sexist gender roles, men are expected to be strong and manly and powerful and women are expected to be gracious young and beautiful. As a result of that, women are more attentive to their body and health, engage themselves in more healthy activities and benefit more from medicine and science. Men on the other hand submit their bodies to challenges from early ages and tend to neglect their bodies needs.

You can have access to detailed statistics (male/female, country by country, life expectancy and other health data) here:


And also, read more about the issue here:




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    $\begingroup$ Good on you for adding the social reasons. $\endgroup$
    – user24284
    Oct 26 '17 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have research to share that supports your claim that "women have not only regained their biological advantage, but have gone beyond it"? In general, the answer could benefit from references in the scientific literature on the issue. The only one of your references that is not just stating the existence of the phenomenon, is the one from Sci. Am. that @rotaredom linked before you, and we have no way of evaluating it as there is no scientific literature cited in it. That is especially true for the discussion on the social factors you mention, which does not sound scientific at all. $\endgroup$
    – vkehayas
    Oct 26 '17 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @vkehayas considering social "sciences" dont use the scientific method because many times they dont do experiments but try to assert their theories with observations or interpretations, or they dont use valid methods for validation because they cant isolate what's going on in the mind, because there are no tools for doing so, asking for an answer in regards to social disciplines to be "scientific" is asking for the impossible. $\endgroup$
    – Pablo
    Oct 26 '17 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Pablo I thoroughly and vehemently disagree that social sciences cannot be scientific a priori! I only disagree with the verbiage used in the linked article, and consequently the answer since it is basically echoing the points therein. The issues can be in principle empirically addressed but I found no evidence in the linked article. Also my request for references was for the whole answer, as none were given for any of the claims made. $\endgroup$
    – vkehayas
    Oct 26 '17 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ It's arguable that the greater risk-taking of men is attributable to testosterone and other biological differences, as well. $\endgroup$ Oct 26 '17 at 18:45

There are a lot of factors playing in here. You've pointed out the surface reasons that can sometimes contribute: work accidents, style of life, etc. However, there are biological causes as you suspected.

Probably the most obvious has to do with the difference between their hormones. Testosterone (male hormone) is associated with violence and risk taking. This would tend to contribute to men having at least a slightly shorter lifespan. Estrogen, on the other hand, is associated with the removal of cholesterol from the blood. This may lower the risk of females dying from heart diseases, raising the average female life span.

Some hypothesize that a large section of the difference simply comes from lifestyle resulting from those hormones, per American Scientific: Men tend to want to be caricatured as strong and tough (result of testosterone), whereas women tend to be more concerned with maintaining their bodies, keeping themselves beautiful, etc. Obviously, this is hard to measure in a conclusive way, so scientific articles and measurements are hard to produce.

However, there are also diseases which men are more prone to because they can lose the Y chromosome in their blood (this is suspected to be induced by smoking, along with other potential causes), such as cancer, and even some forms of Alzheimer's.


Another reason hypothesized that women tend to last longer than men is that they are less prone to serious genetic mutations on the sex chromosome, since they have a double X instead of two totally different XY chromosomes (See Why women live longer than men: Sex differences in longevity (2006) by Steven N. Austad: Gender Medicine 3(2): pp. 86-88).

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It is noteworthy that sex differences occur for infants as well, so I'm not sure that a behavioural explanation like this explains the phenomenon. Your paragraph starting "A large section of the difference..." should be backed up by research papers, otherwise you may be accused of parroting the stereotype-promoting language used in the Sci.Am. article you linked to. An alternative theory is that lifespan simply depends on body size $\endgroup$
    – vkehayas
    Oct 26 '17 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ @vkehayas you have a very good point. Unfortunately, I have to run for a biology seminar right now, but I'll try to scratch up some references afterwards. :) $\endgroup$
    – rotaredom
    Oct 26 '17 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Men get a lot more heart attacks. Perhaps 2% mortality per year after 50!!! archive.cnx.org/resources/… .............. google.fr/…: $\endgroup$ Oct 26 '17 at 17:55

One reason for that delay in onset of cardiovascular disease could be that women are relatively iron-deficient compared to men — especially younger women, those in their late teens and early 20s — because of menstruation. Iron plays a very important part in the reactions in our cells that produce free radicals, which damage cell membranes and DNA, and may translate into aging the cell. Postmenopausal women lose this benefit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821138/

Here is a well researched article on why women live longer than men https://ourworldindata.org/why-do-women-live-longer-than-men


One of the dominant causes of death is atherosclerotic heart disease. Males are susceptible to this disease for their entire adult life with atheroma detectable as early as late teens and twenties. Females are moderately protected from developing this disease until menopause and the decline of estrogen, etc., after that point, they develop ASCVD as well. Therefore, if average duration f ASCVD is 20-30 years until death, men die in their 50-60's, women in their 70's-80's.


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