Women may not live longer than men after all – study

‘Substantial chance’ married or university-educated men outlive women without spouse or high school diploma

A study has called into question the long-held belief that women outlive men, especially men who are married or have a university degree.

The analysis spanning two centuries across all continents concluded that although men have a lower life expectancy than the opposite sex, they have a “substantial chance of outliving females”.

Between 25% and 50% of men have outlived women, according to the academics in Denmark, who highlighted that large differences in life expectancy sometimes mask substantial overlaps in lifespan between the sexes, and that summarising the average length of life can be a “simplistic measure”.

The study, published in the BMJ Open journal, examined data on the lifespan of men and women across 199 countries for almost 200 years. It concluded that men have a high probability of outliving women, especially those who are married or have a degree.

“Males who are married or have a university degree tend to outlive females who are unmarried or do not have a high school diploma,” the authors said.

The analysis also found that in developed countries, the probability of men outliving women fell until the 1970s, after which it gradually increased in all populations. The rise and fall in the differences in life expectancy were mainly attributed to smoking and other behavioural differences. The research said: “A blind interpretation of life expectancy differences can sometimes lead to a distorted perception of the actual inequalities [in lifespan].”

Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

It added: “Although male life expectancy is generally lower than female life expectancy, and male death rates are usually higher at all ages, males have a substantial chance of outliving females.

“These findings challenge the general impression that men do not live as long as women and reveal a more nuanced inequality in lifespans between females and males.”

The academics suggested that a better measure could be to examine the lifespan of both genders in different countries.


Nadeem Badshah

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Elite sportspeople can live five years longer, study finds
Commonwealth Games medallists since 1930 shown to have greater longevity than general population

Amelia Hill

20, Apr, 2023 @12:24 PM

Article image
Menopause, endometriosis and more: four ways England is failing women
As ministers plan to publish the first women’s health strategy we look at where things are going wrong – and why

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent

02, Jun, 2022 @2:30 PM

Article image
Prejudices that led to witch-hunts still affect women today, says historian
Lucy Worsley, whose BBC TV series focuses on powerless people, says women continue to bear brunt of men’s rage

Tobi Thomas

17, May, 2022 @5:00 AM

Article image
Almshouse residents may live up to two and a half years longer, study finds
Co-author says UK’s oldest form of social housing could be part of solution to care crisis

Amelia Hill

22, May, 2023 @5:00 AM

Article image
The men-are-trash narrative is back. But what if women are also trash? | Zoe Williams
I thought we’d created something beautiful in the 90s, with the notion that perhaps nobody was any good at fidelity or washing up. If only we could revive that message

Zoe Williams

27, Mar, 2023 @1:38 PM

Article image
I understand why Joanna Lumley says women must be tougher. The thing is, they already are | Emma John
Calling out sexual harassment is not soft or ‘being a victim’, whatever the actress may claim

Emma John

18, Dec, 2022 @7:30 AM

Article image
Lockdown-fuelled novelty of domestic chores wanes for men
Increased sharing of childcare and housework was seemingly temporary, research suggests

Alexandra Topping and Pamela Duncan

09, Dec, 2020 @5:58 PM

Article image
Swelling ranks of stay-at-home dads could be pandemic’s silver lining
Some of the fundamental shift in attitudes towards caregiving during lockdown appears to have endured

Alexandra Topping

25, Dec, 2022 @5:00 PM

Article image
Facebook criticised after women complain of inaction over abuse
Amnesty says social media firm must do more to support users who report harassment

Poppy Noor

04, Mar, 2019 @7:15 PM

Article image
Men must learn how to make women feel safe while exercising | Letters
Letters: Dr Kathy Dodworth says some men have no idea how intimidating their actions can be. Plus letters from Alison Chubb, David Winter, Frank Paice and Keith Irish


04, Nov, 2022 @6:18 PM