For most of human history, we have not needed to wonder who lives longer: men or women? However, towards the end of the 19th century, women suddenly began outliving men
There are many hypothesized reasons why women live longer than men. Therefore, this has been a fascinating area of research for many scientists.
With advances in clean water, antibiotics, and education about nutrition, humans began living longer. But despite the changes that the 20th century brought, men still lagged behind women in life expectancy. Did the Industrial Revolution only benefit women?
Animal studies, however, showed some interesting counter-arguments to that. While the human animal is somewhat unique with its females outliving males, other species vary widely. Except for the apes. They did not create for themselves an industrial revolution, but the females outlived the males.
Information gathered from the Human Mortality Database reveals the known history of mortality based on sex. Collected data shows that as far back as 1751, in Sweden, women lived longer. 38 countries have all contributed records to the database, and it is unanimous that women live longer.
In fact, 90% of super-centenarians, that is, people who live beyond 100, are women. Data derived from Iceland showed that despite catastrophes such as volcanoes, disease epidemics, and famine, women still were living longer.
For some diseases, women are more prone to die earlier. Things like Alzheimer’s kill more women than men. Other diseases don’t even discriminate. Stroke kills just as many women as men.
However, more common diseases are more likely to affect males. Furthermore, this appears to be a combination of men’s different genetic makeup, and hormones. Women have a double set of genetic codes, thanks to having xx chromosomes. What this means is that they get “spare” genes to use when problems arise. Men don’t have this advantage, as along with their y, they only have a single x chromosome.
Hormones also play a significant role in differentiating males and females
Male bodies surge with testosterone, which causes men to be more prone to risk-taking and bravado. Subsequently, this can lead to more accidents and consequently death.
Testosterone drives a man to physical action, his part in the reproductive process is brief. Ultimately, this is so he may set about actively creating a protective barrier for his offspring and their nurturer, their mother.
Human infants and mothers are extremely vulnerable in the early days. Furthermore, babies are solely dependent on their parents, and the mother is its source of nutrition. Also, for the first six weeks after birth, a mother can bleed to death if she exerts herself too much. The reason is that the placenta site is a giant open wound.
Men feel a lot more stress in their roles as protectors, and this is evident even when they are young. Men have the highest rates of suicide.
Also, men are more likely to take on dangerous jobs and be the ones to go to war. Despite demands for equality of the sexes, there are many jobs women choose not to do equally with men. Construction work and emergency services are still male-dominated because women are simply not interested in this type of work. We must recognize that these kinds of jobs have higher mortality rates.
The expectation that they should be the knight in shining armor causes them to internalize emotions. Sadly, this can have a pressure cooker effect. Rather than feel emasculated, they devastatingly may choose to take their own lives. Women have permission to release their emotions, whereas historically men have not had that permission.
Men statistically are more prone to cardiovascular disease. The irony of having iron deficiency from menstruation means women do not experience this as frequently.
Women may also gain a biological advantage from their hormonal production. Estrogen acts as an anti-oxidant, which provides distinct health privileges. Also, during the 2nd half of a woman’s menstrual cycle, she experiences a “jogging female heart”. Essentially, this is the equivalent of what we experience during moderate exercise.
Therefore, it seems to be the biggest irony of patriarchy. What women blame as being oppressive, is ironically enabling them to live longer. So to obtain true equality of the sexes, what steps can men take to live as long as women?
An extreme way of increasing male longevity is castration. Of course, this is unethical, and should never happen, but a study of Korean eunuchs revealed interesting clues about testosterone. The average lifespan of these eunuchs was nearly 20 years longer than regular men. Studies involving animal experiments have shown similar results.
So clearly, castration is not the solution. However, becoming conscious of the power of testosterone is. Becoming aware of its influence on a man’s life decisions is a big step in the direction of males living longer.
Men need to become more health conscious, especially in regards to their heart health
They are more likely to avoid visiting the doctor. Campaigns for men’s health need to become more prevalent.
And avenues for men to deal with mental health issues need to open up. In Australia, the movement “Man Up” aims to address these problems in a tailor-made way for men. It has had spectacular results.
Let’s hope that we will soon see true gender equality, and men will become healthier in mind, body, and soul. In the not-too-distant future, we will hopefully see men living for as long as women.