Evolutionary forces explain why women live longer than men

modern lifestyles are actually exacerbating the gap between male and female life expectancies.

Male physiology, shaped by eons of sexual competition, is putting the guys at a disadvantage in longevity. Male immune systems are somewhat weaker, and their bodies are less able to process the fat they eat, Kruger said. And behavioral causes---smoking, overeating, reckless driving, violence---set men apart from most women. "Because mortality rates in general are going down, behavioral causes of death are ever more prevalent," Kruger said.

Looking at human mortality rates sliced by socioeconomic status shows that the gender gap is affected by social standing. Human males in lower socio-economic levels tend to have higher mortality rates than their higher-status peers. The impact of social standing is greater on male mortality than on female mortality, Kruger noted, partially because males who have a relatively lower status or lack a mate engage in a riskier pattern of behaviors in an attempt to get ahead, he said.


Contact: Karl Leif Bates
University of Michigan

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