Why do women still live longer than men?

accreditation
Widow – iStock
Widow – iStock

People are living longer than ever, but men still trail women in life expectancy, a new study shows.

Also in other primates

An international team of researchers reviewed data from more than 1 million people worldwide. From the 18th century to the present, they found the last few generations have had the largest life expectancy increase in the history of humans and all other primates.

For example, life expectancy in Sweden over the last 200 years increased from the mid-30s to over 80.

"We've made a bigger journey in lengthening our lifespan over the last few hundred years than we did over millions of years of evolutionary history," study co-author Susan Alberts, a biology professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said in a school news release.

Read: Life expectancy in SA increases

But despite the overall increasing life expectancy – the result of advances in medicine and public health – men still tend to have shorter lives than females, something that is true in other primates as well.

"The male disadvantage has deep evolutionary roots," Alberts said.

"It's puzzling," she said. "If we can make life last so long, why can't we shrink the male-female gap?"

Possible reasons include genetics and higher levels of risky behaviours in men, the researchers suggested.

The study was published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more:

There may be a natural limit to longevity

Lifestyle affects life expectancy more than genetics

Scientists spot longevity gene

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
28% - 9937 votes
No
72% - 25977 votes
Vote