Behavioural Science Section / Viewpoint
Do Women Live Longer or Do Men Die Earlier? Reflections on the Causes of Sex Differences in Life ExpectancyLuy M. · Gast K.
Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/OEAW, WU), Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria
Do you have an account?
- Rent for 48h to view
- Buy Cloud Access for unlimited viewing via different devices
- Synchronizing in the ReadCube Cloud
- Printing and saving restrictions apply
Rental: USD 8.50
Cloud: USD 20.00
Article / Publication Details
Background: Although many different factors have been identified to contribute to excess male mortality, it is still unclear which path of the complex cause-effect chain is the decisive driver of the life expectancy gap between women and men. Objective: The question behind this study is whether these sex differences are caused primarily by factors leading to low female mortality or rather by factors causing high male mortality. We hypothesise that they are to a large extent caused by specific subpopulations of men with particularly high mortality levels that decrease the average life expectancy of men. Methods: To test this hypothesis, we investigate in a meta-analysis the variability in mortality (VM) in women and men - defined as the range of death rates prevailing among subpopulations - in empirical studies analysing specific phenomena of mortality differentials. We used the data of 72 empirical studies, including 146 total effects (TE) and 1,718 single effects (SE) for 21 different risk factors. Results: In 85% of TE and three quarters of SE the VM was higher in men than in women, taking into account men's higher overall mortality. The corresponding figures for the direct differences in the VM between women and men are 92 and 82%, respectively. Cases with higher female VM are rare exceptions and appear in particular in the highest age groups. Conclusions: We find support for our hypothesis that the disproportionate high mortality levels of specific male subpopulations are the central cause of the current extent of sex differences in life expectancy. Thus, public health programmes should be targeted toward these disadvantaged subpopulations among men which seem to be related primarily to socioeconomic characteristics.
© 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel
Struyck N: Inleiding tot de Algemeene Geographie, benevens eenige sterrekundige en andere Verhandelingen. Amsterdam, Isaak Tirion, 1740.
Deparcieux A: Essai sur les probabilités de la durée de la vie humaine. D'où l'on déduit la manière de déterminer les rentes viagères, tant simples qu'en Tontines. Précédé d'une courte explication sur les rentes à terme, ou annuités. Paris, Frères Guérin, 1746.
- Langford CM: Sex differentials in mortality in Sri Lanka: changes since the 1920s. J Biosoc Sci 1984;16:399-410.
- Aden AS, Omar MM, Högberg U, Persson LÅ, Wall S: Excess female mortality in rural Somalia - is inequality in the household a risk factor? Soc Sci Med 1997;44:709-715.
- Barford A, Dorling D, Davey Smith G, Shaw M: Life expectancy: women now on top everywhere. Br Med J 2006;332:808.
- Wingard DL: The sex differential in morbidity, mortality, and lifestyle. Annu Rev Public Health 1984;5:433-458.
- Luy M: Causes of male excess mortality: insights from cloistered populations. Popul Dev Rev 2003;29:647-676.
- Pressat R: Surmortalité biologique et surmortalité sociale. Rev Fr Sociol (numéro spécial) 1973;14:103-110.
- Lemaire J: Why do females live longer than males? North Am Actuarial J 2002;6:21-37.
- Miller GH, Gerstein DR: The life expectancy of nonsmoking men and women. Public Health Rep 1983;98:343-349.
- Lyon JL, Nelson S: Mormon health. Dialogue 1979;12:84-96.
- Berkel J, de Waard F: Mortality pattern and life expectancy of Seventh-Day Adventists in the Netherlands. Int J Epidemiol 1983;12:455-459.
- Hamman RF, Barancik JI, Lilienfeld AM: Patterns of mortality in the Old Order Amish. I. Background and major causes of death. Am J Epidemiol 1981;114:845-861.
- Leviatan U, Cohen J: Gender differences in life expectancy among Kibbutz members. Soc Sci Med 1985;21:545-551.
- Staetsky L, Hinde A: Unusually small sex differentials in mortality of Israeli Jews: what does the structure of causes of death tell us? Demogr Res 2009;20:209-252.
- Casey AE, Casey JG: Long-lived male population with high cholesterol intake, Slieve Lougher, Ireland. Ala J Med Sci 1970;7:21-26.
- Poulain M, Pes G, Salaris L: A population where men live as long as women: Villagrande Strisaili, Sardinia. J Aging Res 2011, Article ID 153756.
- Austad SN: Why women live longer than men: sex differences in longevity. Gend Med 2006;3:79-92.
- Kraemer S: The fragile male. Br Med J 2000;321:1609-1612.
- Shkolnikov VM, Andreev EE, Begun AZ: Gini coefficient as a life table function: computation from discrete data, decomposition of differences and empirical examples. Demogr Res 2003;8:305-358.
- Smits J, Monden C: Length of life inequality around the globe. Soc Sci Med 2009;68:1114-1123.
- Meara ER, Richards S, Cutler DM: The gap gets bigger: changes in mortality and life expectancy, by education, 1981-2000. Health Affairs 2008;27:350-360.
Luy M, Caselli G: The impact of a migration-caused selection effect on regional mortality differences in Italy and Germany. Genus 2007;63:33-64.
- Cheung SLK, Robine J-M, Tu EJ-C, Caselli G: Three dimensions of the survival curve: horizontalization, verticalization, and longevity extension. Demography 2005;42:243-258.
- Hedges LV, Olkin I: Vote-counting methods in research synthesis. Psychol Bull 1980;88:359-369.
Hedges LV, Olkin I: Statistical Methods for Meta-Analysis. San Diego, Academic Press, 1985.
- Glass GV: Primary, secondary, and meta-analysis of research. Educ Res 1976;5:3-8.
Rothstein HR, Sutton AJ, Borenstein M: Publication Bias in Meta-Analysis. Prevention, Assessment and Adjustments. Chichester, Wiley, 2005.
- Rosenthal R: The file drawer problem and tolerance for null results. Psychol Bull 1979;86:638-641.
- Nathanson CA, Lopez AD: The future of sex mortality differentials in industrialized countries: a structural hypothesis. Popul Res Policy Rev 1987;6:123-136.
Marmot M, Atkinson T, Bell J, Black C, Broadfoot P, Cumberlege J, Diamond I, Gilmore I, Ham C, Meacher M, Mulgan G: Fair societies, healthy lives: the Marmot Review. London, University College London, 2010 (available at: www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/fair-society-healthy-lives-the-marmot-review).
- Christensen K, Herskind AM: Genetic factors associated with individual life duration: heritability; in Robine J-M, Crimmins EM, Horiuchi S, Zeng Y (eds): Human Longevity, Individual Life Duration, and the Growth of the Oldest-Old Population. Dordrecht, Springer, 2007, pp 237-250.
- Trovato F, Lalu NM: Narrowing sex differentials in life expectancy in the industrialized world: early 1970s to early 1990s. Soc Biol 1996;43:20-37.
- Van Andel P: Anatomy of the unsought finding. Serendipity: origin, history, domains, traditions, appearances, patterns and programmability. Br J Philos Sci 1994;45:631-648.
- Elo IT, Preston SH: Educational differentials in mortality: United States, 1979-85. Soc Sci Med 1996;42:47-57.
Article / Publication Details
Copyright / Drug Dosage / DisclaimerCopyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.