If You Ever Wondered Why Women Outlive Men, Now You May Have Your Answer…

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a

A recent study by researcher Hiram Beltran-Sanchez and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin in Madison looked for the reason why women currently outlive men.

What it found along the way is that women didn’t always have the life-expectancy advantage.

According to Scientific American:

For the study, researchers analyzed information from people born between 1800 and 1935 in 13 developed countries.

They found that over this time period, death rates decreased among both men and women. But starting in 1880, death rates decreased much faster among women, leading to differences in mortality rates between the sexes.

For a short period of time in the 1800s, the life expectancy for men and women was about even, writes the L.A. Times.

Then, women started to take the lead.

Why the changes? The researchers focused on the “five major causes of death: cardiovascular disease; stroke; cancer; influenza and pneumonia; and smoking-attributable deaths, which they estimated from rates of lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases.” They also only looked at people ages 40 to 90.

b

The trend continued as better nutrition, clean water and antibiotics entered the picture:

…for people born between 1900 and 1935, men were two to three times more likely to die in their 50s and 60s than were their female counterparts, the researchers wrote. This gender imbalance, which Beltran-Sanchez refers to as “excess male mortality,” is caused primarily by cardiovascular disease and smoking-related deaths, [Beltran-Sanchez] said.

Another possible factor is that childbirth became safer and less risky.

The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine writes of the time period from 1850 until 1970:

There was a period of irregular but general steady maternal death rates until about 1900. These then dipped slightly till the First World War and continued so till the late 1930s. Then a sudden precipitous reduction in maternal deaths occurred which could not be due to any natural factors involved in death. It was, in fact, due to the overcoming of maternal infection by chemotherapy and antibiotics.

However, rather than consider this factor as well, the researchers studied only ages beyond the prime child-bearing years for women.

cSo why do women live longer than men, when it used to be the other way around?

A lot of it boils down to lifestyle and the fact that women are living in more healthy ways these days.

The L.A. Times writes:

“If this is something that has been triggered by lifestyle, or diet, we could potentially ameliorate it or diminish it,” he said.

NBC News notes that “men may be more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease,” but this appeared only after other contributing factors began to decline.

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