According to researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) Davis School of Gerontology, much of the difference in longevity between men and women can be attributed to cardiovascular disease.
Women have been living longer than men since as early as the late 19th century, according to the study. The researchers pulled medical records for 1,763 people from 13 developed countries going back to the 1800s. They found that female mortality rates for people born after 1880 decreased 70 percent faster over time than male mortality rates, leaving men with shorter lifespans.
So why did men continue to die more rapidly while women began to live longer? The numerous medical advances that have taken place since the 1800s have extended lifespans for both men and women, but according to the study, the main reason for men’s shorter lifespans is cardiovascular disease. Smoking was linked to 30 percent of the excess male deaths over time, while cardiovascular illnesses not caused by smoking made up the majority of the rest.
Some scientists believe men may have an inherently greater risk of developing heart disease, while others believe their outsized heart disease rates may be due to environmental factors. For example, Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner says that “middle-aged men in high stress jobs” are the most likely to develop heart disease due to the stress that comes with holding positions of power in business and government. However, with more women filling these high-powered roles, we may see an increase in women’s rates of cardiovascular illness, which could lead to an equalization of lifespans between the sexes.
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