Do Women Really Live Longer Than Men?

Women live longer than men, it's true, and the evidence behind that fact may shock you. According to Time, the average American woman will live to age 81, while the average American male will live to age 76. Human and non-human longevity has been studied for many decades and according to Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a neuropsychiatric professor at the University of New South Wales, "this gender gap in life expectancy is true for all societies, and it is also true for the great apes." In humans, a number of factors contribute to the gap, including lifestyle choices, and mental health.

Sachdev says men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as excessive drinking, smoking, and staying overweight, but are less likely to seek medical treatment when ill. Males are more inclined to participate in dangerous activities such as fighting and car racing, which can result in fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017, the third leading cause of death of men in America, regardless of race and origin, was 'unintentional injuries.'  

Another alarming reason women may outlive men is suicide. A 2015 publication by the CDC showed that men commit suicide nearly four times as much as females, representing 77.9 percent of all suicides. Although females suffer from depression at a higher rate than males, they are more likely to get treatment for it, resulting in a quicker recovery (via The Conversation).

Living longer may be in the genes

Biologically speaking, women have a genetic advantage by having two X chromosomes, which aids them in fighting infections and recovering from illnesses better than males, who have the X and Y chromosome. Genetic researcher Sharon Moalem tells the New York Post that because women have two X chromosomes, their "immune cells function like a tactical unit. They specialize, then they interact and cooperate to fight the invaders." 

Studies show that estrogen can help sustain healthy cell function and prevent certain DNA damage that results in disease, giving women yet another innate longevity advantage (per Time). Estrogen has also been shown to have a positive effect on lipids in the blood and may prevent early heart disease (via Psychology Today).

Clearly, DNA plays a part in why women live longer than men, but it's apparent that lifestyle choices are a significant factor as well. Choosing to participate in healthier habits, seeking medical help when sick, and avoiding dangerous situations may further extend your living years.