Life Expectancy - Human Life Expectancy Patterns - Sex Differences

Sex Differences

Women tend to have a lower mortality rate at every age. In the womb, male fetuses have a higher mortality rate (babies are conceived in a ratio estimated to be from 107 to 170 males to 100 females, but the ratio at birth in the United States is only 105 males to 100 females). Among the smallest premature babies (those under 2 pounds or 900 g) females again have a higher survival rate. At the other extreme, about 90% of individuals aged 110 are female. The difference in life expectancy between men and women in the United States dropped from 7.8 years in 1979 to 5.3 years in 2005, with women expected to live to age 80.1 in 2005.

In the past, mortality rates for females in child-bearing age groups were higher than for males at the same age. This is no longer the case, and female human life expectancy is considerably higher than that of men. The reasons for this are not entirely certain. Traditional arguments tend to favor socio-environmental factors: historically, men have generally consumed more tobacco, alcohol and drugs than females in most societies, and are more likely to die from many associated diseases such as lung cancer, tuberculosis and cirrhosis of the liver. Men are also more likely to die from injuries, whether unintentional (such as occupational or war or car accidents) or intentional (suicide). Men are also more likely to die from most of the leading causes of death (some already stated above) than women. Some of these in the United States include: cancer of the respiratory system, motor vehicle accidents, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema, and coronary heart disease. These far outweigh the female mortality rate from breast cancer and cervical cancer etc.

Some argue that shorter male life expectancy is merely another manifestation of the general rule, seen in all mammal species, that larger individuals tend on average to have shorter lives. This biological difference occurs because women have more resistance to infections and degenerative diseases.

In her extensive review of the existing literature, Kalben concluded that the fact that women live longer than men was observed at least as far back as 1750 and that, with relatively equal treatment, today males in all parts of the world experience greater mortality than females. Of 72 selected causes of death, only 6 yielded greater female than male age-adjusted death rates in 1998 in the United States. With the exception of birds, for almost all of the animal species studied, the males have higher mortality than the females. Evidence suggests that the sex mortality differential in humans is due to both biological/genetic and environmental/behavioral risk and protective factors.

There is a recent suggestion mitochondria that shorten male lifespan stay in the system because mitochondria are inherited only through the mother. By contrast natural selection weeds out mitochondria that reduce female survival as such mitochondria are less likely to be passed on to the next generation. Therefore it is suggested human females and female animals tend to live longer than males. The authors claim this is a partial explanation.

Read more about this topic:  Life Expectancy, Human Life Expectancy Patterns

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