London: Men — especially those who are married and have a degree — have a high probability of outliving women, reveals a statistical analysis spanning 200 years across different countries, including India.
Challenging the popular notion that men simply don’t live as long as women, the study, published in the open access journal BMJ Open, showed that between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of men have outlived women.
The study showed married men with a degree have an advantage over unmarried women, educated only to high school level.
Couples influence each other’s health, and this is particularly true for men, who benefit more than women from being in a stable relationship, pointed out researchers from the Syddansk Universitet in Denmark.
Further, the data also showed that the death rate has fallen faster for women, overall, than for men under the age of 50, especially in the first half of the 20th century, largely as a result of improvements in infant and child deaths.
And men have not only maintained their survival disadvantage at younger ages, but at older ages too. They are more prone to accidents and homicides in their 20s and 30s, and they tend to smoke and drink more, leading to higher cancer prevalence and death in their 60s.
A more nuanced approach to sex differences in survival is needed, the researchers said. “Efforts in reducing lifespan inequalities must thus target diverse factors, causes and ages,” they wrote in the paper.
The team studied sex differences in deaths in 199 populations from every continent over a period of 200 years.
The data showed that between 1 and 2 (25-50 per cent) out of every 4 men have outlived women for the past 200 years. The rise and fall in sex differences in life expectancy were mainly attributed to smoking and other behavioural differences.
The probability of males living longer than females is generally higher in low- and middle-income countries, but this doesn’t necessarily mean greater gender equality in survival, the researchers noted.
They highlight South Asian countries, where values were above 50 per cent for men in the 1950s and 1960s. The death rate for children under 5 in India was higher for girls than for boys and has remained higher for girls in recent years.
But fewer girls than boys above the age of 15 have died since the 1980s, “balancing out” the disadvantage at younger ages, they explained.
Certain external factors also seem to have a key role. For example, between 2015 and 2019, the probability of males outliving females was 40 per cent across the entire US population.
But this statistic varied, depending on marital status and educational attainment: the probability of men outliving women was 39 per cent for those who were married and 37 per cent for those who weren’t.
And it was 43 per cent for those with a university degree and 39 per cent for those without a high school diploma.