Our ongoing series, The Wonder of You, examines the many ways in which women’s bodies can accomplish some truly amazing things. This month, we examine why women tend to live longer than men by looking at some of the causes behind this fantastic longevity, the lessons and assumptions from the experts studying geroscience—the study of aging and disease—and explore ways to ensure you enjoy great health through a long life.
The most recent information from the CDC reinforces the trend that experts started paying close attention to more than forty years ago—that women are increasingly living longer than men. Recent studies show men’s life expectancy was up slightly to approximately 76.2 years, while women enjoy a few extra years with 81.2—a slight increase over previous years. Further, those same studies indicate that men should expect to enjoy only 67 years of “full health,” meaning no significant or ongoing health concerns, while women should look forward to 70-72 years of “full health.”
Looking ahead forty years into the future, experts suggest that advances in health care from trusted providers like Axia Women’s Health combined with a more personal, connected approach to managing their own health means that, by 2060, women should reach an average life expectancy of 87 years or more—four more years than their 2060 male counterparts.
It’s clear that women are living longer than men, and that their ability to do so is only going to improve through the years. But, why?
One would think that all of the studies, data, and statistics on hand to answer the question of “do we live longer?” would also clearly answer the question of “why?”, but the truth is that the nature of the study of aging and disease, or geroscience, is one of observed facts combined with informed assumptions based on years of evidence. Given that assumptions can play a role, the overall answer to why actually seems to be a combination of biology and behavior.
The biological differences between men and women are numerous, but when it comes to aging, a few key differentiators play a more important role in helping women live longer than men. First, the presence of male sex hormones like testosterone have been shown to have a negative long-term effect on men’s immune functions, as well as bringing an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The fact that these hormones are present in much smaller amounts in women means that these complications are avoided. In contrast, the female sex hormone estrogen offers additional protections and benefits by playing an antioxidant role in support of health cellular function. Differences in protein levels and antibody producing B cells as men and women age also become more stark, and ultimately, this collection of biological factors indicates that even during severe times like famine or pandemics such as COVID-19, women are better prepared to survive.
Further, as the child-bearers, women’s bodies go through a host of changes to help them endure the stress and physical trauma associated with childbirth and breastfeeding. Men’s bodies are not exposed to or prepared for such endurance, and as such, are not as well prepared to weather the storms of age. From a wider biological perspective, scientists point to males being larger than females, and in biological terms, in species where the males are larger, their life span is shorter.
This area is where many assumptions start to play a role, and as this area of study really began to gain expert interest more than forty years ago, these assumptions are readily being put to the test in the interest of expanding and improving our grasp on the study of aging. But whether scientifically measurable or not, behavioral attributes have historically played a role in helping women outlive men. Here are a few of the highlights of this body of observational research:
The evidence is clear: regular health checks, healthy lifestyle choices, and a good social network of support are the best ingredients for a long and healthy life. Axia Women’s Health’s team of caring doctors, nurses, and staff are dedicated to supporting and enriching your life through each stage of your journey and will be here with you along each step.
You are truly a wonder!