Women are stronger than men, more likely to survive life threatening crisis

Alicia Farmer
January 10, 2018

Across modern populations, women outlive men in nearly all instances, with life expectancy for English women being 83.1 years, compared to 79.5 years for men (the figure for Scotland is 81.2 years for women and 77.1 years for men).

It's well known that women can expect to live longer, with Brit blokes' life expectancy at 79.4 years, compared to 83.1 years for the fairer sex. In nearly all modern populations, women can expect to outlive men - in some cases, by as much as five or six years.

"Most of the female advantage was due to differences in mortality among infants". Think starvation, disease outbreak, and slavery.

A team of scientists led by the University of Southern Demark analyzed demographic data from seven periods of intense hardship and found that in virtually all populations and age groups women were the better survivors.

Researchers from Duke University and University of Southern Denmark analysed the mortality data going back roughly around 250 years for people whose lives were cut short by different disasters like starvation or diseases or other misfortunes. The higher tendency to take risks among men adds to the difference in life expectancy as they consume tobacco and alcohol in higher quantities and drive less safely among other things.

The only exception to the trend was the Trinidadian slave trade, in which men outlived women during the early 19th century. However, researchers believe this is because male slaves were worth more, so traders had more of an incentive to keep them alive.

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These situations saw dramatic decreases in life expectancy.

Case studies included the Irish starvation of 1845-1849, the Iceland measles epidemics of 1846 and 1882, and the experiences of freed Liberian slaves returning to Africa from the United States in the early 19th century, where they encountered a very different disease climate which killed many. Overall, 43 percent of ex-slaves who were encouraged by the U.S. government to migrate to Liberia died within their first year in Africa because their immune systems were exposed to new diseases. Newborn girls are hardier than newborn boys.

Traditionally, women's higher life expectancy is the result of a healthier and less violent lifestyle.

Meanwhile, studies have shown testosterone fuels a man's competitive nature, driving him to be more reckless.

Based on these findings, the academics concluded, "The hypothesis that the survival advantage of women has fundamental biological underpinnings is supported by the fact that under very harsh conditions females survive better than males even at infant ages when behavioral and social differences may be minimal or favor males".

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