Why Women Live Longer Than Men

It’s true. According to the latest CDC figures, the average American woman will live to age 81, while the average man will only live to 76. In addition, those extra years also tend to be healthier. And it’s not just this country. “This gender gap in life expectancy is true for all societies, and it is also true for the great apes,” says Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Why? You can probably guess some of the reasons. It’s true that men tend to smoke and drink more, be overweight, and engage in riskier behaviors, like driving faster. They are also tend to put off seeking medical help and are less likely to follow doctors’ instructions.

But there may be hormonal reasons. The male sex hormone testosterone not only seems to encourage risky behavior, but cause other complications. According to Kyung-Jin Min, a professor of biological sciences at Inha University in South Korea, “Male sex hormones decrease immune function and increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases.” For example, in a 2012 study published in Current Biology, Min and his colleagues examined the historical health records of 81 Korean eunuchs. They found the eunuchs tended to live around 14 to 19 years longer than uncastrated men in the same socio-economic status. It’s possible that testosterone may block the release of some immune cells, although at present the links aren’t clear. But there is also research linking low testosterone levels to heart disease and other problems. As with most medical matters, it’s complicated.

On the other hand, maybe the gap is because female hormones offer some proven benefits. “Estrogen appears to be protective—it has been shown to have an antioxidant role,” says Sachdev. A 2013 review in the International Journal of Endocrinology found evidence that estrogen can prevent DNA damage and helps maintain healthy cell function.

Which leads to the question — why the difference between sexes? Well, bearing children is pretty important. Or as Sachdev says, “Once children are born, men are disposable. But the robust body of the mother is important for the survival of the offspring.”

So, as a man, I’ll just have to stay away from risky behavior and hope for the best.

Taken from “Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men?” by Markham Heid (http://time.com/5538099/why-do-women-live-longer-than-men/?).

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