Are Men Destined to Live Shorter Lives Than Women?

written by Skye Sherman - Aug 23, 2021

Did you know it’s scientifically proven that women live longer than men? This might be good news or bad news for you, depending on which side you’re on! And did you know that most centenarians (people who live to be 100) are women?

Statistics cited by Advisory Board share how large the gap is: “As of 2017, life expectancy for men was 76.1 years, while life expectancy for women reached 81.1 years. … According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women’s life expectancy is projected to reach 87.3 years by 2060, compared with 83.9 years for men.” Women generally live longer than men in every country around the modern world.

Are Men Destined to Live Shorter Lives Than Women?

While it’s true that generally, women outlive men, it is interesting to examine the facts behind this trend. Do men have a shorter life expectancy than women because they live less healthy lives, or is it in their genes? Is there anything men can do to live as long as women?

It may seem strange that men have a shorter life expectancy than women, but in this article, we’ll dive in to take a look at why and how this might be, including biological, social, and genetic factors. Women outliving men hasn’t always been the case (women often died during childbirth in past centuries) but we’ll take a look at why modern men are dying sooner than modern women in today’s world.

Why women outlive men

Women tend to live longer than men. This is true not in certain countries or in special circumstances, but around the world and across the board. Why is this? Is it genetic, or does it have something to do with their lifestyles and the way men live versus the way women live?

As Seniors Matter explains, “Many families’ older generations are made up of matriarchs without mates. Why is this so? It is a well-documented fact that there are more widows than widowers. … statistics from around the world corroborate this fact. Could there be persistent reasons why there is such a worldwide gender gap among the elderly?”

An article in LiveScience also summarizes the question well: “In the United States, the average life expectancy for women is 81 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For men, it’s 76 years. Around the world, women live longer, on average. So why do women tend to outlive men?”

One possible explanation lies in sex hormones. Women produce more estrogen and less testosterone than men do, and estrogen can help to protect against some diseases, including cardiovascular disease (which is one of the main killers in America).

On the other hand, testosterone has been linked to increasing the risk of some diseases, at least in high levels. High levels of testosterone may lead to endometrial and breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

In this sense, it seems that the reason women outlive men has a lot to do with hormones. But there are other factors at play as well. “Testosterone has also been linked to risky behavior and higher levels of aggression, which can increase the risk of dying at a younger age,” according to LiveScience. Living a riskier life and making more dangerous choices can certainly lead to an earlier death.

Do men have any chance to live longer than women?

Sex hormones aren’t the only things that may be linked to men living shorter lives. There are also genetic factors. So is it all in our DNA? Are men destined to the fate of shorter lives?

As one scientist explains in the LiveScience article, all humans have two sex chromosomes: X and Y. Women have two X chromosomes while men have an X and a Y. But the Y chromosome is really just missing the genetic material that would make it an X chromosome. Since women have extra genetic material thanks to their double X chromosome, they have better chances when it comes to some diseases.

Interestingly, this trend was studied also in the context of strict religious environments, such as the lives of nuns and monks, who live very similar lives in terms of what they eat, how they live, and what types of activities they engage in.

The article explains, “This biological advantage gives women, on average, just under a year of longer life expectancy when they are young adults compared with men … In strict religious settings, men and women have similar lifestyles, and both sexes avoid risky behaviors; therefore, their difference in longevity is probably biological … biology gives women about two additional years of life, on average.”

The article provides even more evidence of the genetic factors at play: “Additionally, when infants are in settings with particularly high mortality rates, such as during severe famines and epidemics and when they are enslaved, baby girls have higher survival rates than baby boys.”

It seems that the fact that men have an overall shorter life expectancy than women isn’t just about lifestyle. Maybe it’s in the cards. But do men have to accept their fate?

Social factors that explain why women live longer

It’s not all genes and hormones. It’s true that women tend to live about 4 or 5 years longer than men, but hormonal and biological factors don’t account for that much of a difference. So while these factors may be a big part of why women tend to live a few years longer than men, what explains the rest of the years they are missing?

Social factors are another major item at play. These are vast generalizations, of course, but typically, men tend to smoke, drink, and engage in less healthy behaviors than women do. It’s true that women also smoke and drink, but they tend to consume less overall when they do.

This may seem like an overly generalized take on men’s behaviors, but the CDC released findings that support these ideas: “Almost 59% of adult men report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days compared with 47% of adult women. Men are almost two times more likely to binge drink than women. Approximately 22% of men report binge drinking and on average do so 5 times a month, consuming 8 drinks per binge. In 2019, 7% of men had an alcohol use disorder compared with 4% of women.”

In addition, women tend to eat lighter and healthier foods while men will more often consume fatty meals, fast food, and may even ignore nutritional advice. In addition, when they get sick or just to maintain their health, women are more likely to visit a doctor while men will tend to put off or avoid visiting a physician.

Data from the CDC backs this up: “Even excluding pregnancy-related visits, women were 33 percent more likely than men to visit a doctor, although this difference decreased with age. The rate of doctor visits for such reasons as annual examinations and preventive services was 100 percent higher for women than for men.”

Seniors Matter shares some of the main scientifically supported reasons that men don’t live as long as women do:

* “Men are 50% more likely to die from heart disease.

* Men have less of a social life.

* Men are less likely to go to the doctor when they need to.

* Men naturally take larger risks and have jobs (police officers, military, firefighters, etc.) that increase their chances of incurring medically significant injuries.”

While you can’t change your genetic makeup and you don’t want to alter your hormone levels unless prescribed by a doctor, the social category is one area where men can take matters into their own hands and make better choices in order to live longer.

Tips to help men live longer

If men want to live longer lives, they should do what they can to ensure their health and wellness. Yes, there are still biological factors at play, but for everything else, they can take matters into their own hands and do what they can to try to live as long as women do.

In an article titled Simple ways for men to live longer, healthier lives, Sharp Health News recommends that men regularly monitor their own health: “Along with watching for any changes in their health, men should talk to their doctors about how often they should be screened for certain diseases and conditions, including prostate cancer, skin cancer, colon cancer, high cholesterol and diabetes.”

In addition, the doctor-advised report recommends that men eat right and watch their nutrition, become more active, consume heart-healthy foods (and less meat and cholesterol), and lower their stress levels, since stress is another major risk factor for heart disease. Adding fermented food to the diet might also help with hypertension, which is linked to heart disease.

“Nutrition and exercise go a long way in lowering cholesterol, preventing obesity and reducing risk of developing heart disease and stroke. … Daily physical activity, even walking for 30 minutes, can make a difference in keeping the extra pounds off,” the article explains. De-stressing through your daily physical activity, especially in the form of walking, jogging, yoga, or swimming, can also be a huge help.

And while it may be bad news for some men, it’s best to cut down on smoking or drinking in order to live longer:

“Quit smoking or don’t start. Being smoke-free significantly reduces the risk of deadly diseases such as cancer, lung disease and stroke. Cut down on drinking. Reducing alcohol consumption lowers the risk of alcohol-related illness. Men under 65 should not drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day. Men over 65 should have no more than one drink a day.” If you’re addicted but want to quit for the sake of your health, there are products to make it easier to quit smoking.

If you’re a man and you want to maximize the years of your life, make healthy choices and create a happy life you love and want to extend for as long as possible.

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DISCLAIMER

While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.