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Why Do Women Outlive Men?

Why do women live longer

Why Do Women Outlive Men?

Why are there a growing number of women outliving men?  Is it men’s’ reckless ways?   Running with scissors and the like?  Or perhaps, its genetics and men really are from Mars and Martians simply don’t live as long.  Well it seems that both are true (not the Mars bit) genetics and lifestyles may be the cause.

About 215 people received cheques from President Michael D Higgins last year after celebrating their centenary birthday.  Out of the 215 people, 183 of them were women.  The oldest person of the bunch who received the cheque was a 109 year old lady.  Dr Shaun O’Keefe a Geriatrician in University Hospital Galway said “the proportion of older people is rising rapidly. Ireland is experiencing a particular rise in the elderly. We will see a rise in the next few decades in older people and in very old people including those over 100 years old.  It will be quite a dramatic increase in the coming decades.  There is no doubt that longevity has increased in recent years and this is due to better healthcare and also better living conditions as well.  It is not a single factor.”  He said it is not always the case that a child will live to the same age as their parents, as genetics don’t always play a part in longevity.

Healthy lifestyles and environmental issues are more likely to be a factor.  Men tend to smoke and drink more on average, and they don’t usually talk about their stresses, they internalise them, which can result in them having heart attacks or strokes. Years ago when men were the primary breadwinners it was said that they died before women because of their long and arduous working life.  Nowadays though women are working the same amount of hours as men, and often have to juggle their home life as well, yet modern women are still outliving their male counterparts.  Another theory why women tend to outlive men is they are more likely to be sociable than men when they get older, and this is good for their health. They stay in touch with their friends and may do some volunteer work.  Also men are less likely to visit their GP than women, so their health problems may go undetected for years.

Scientific America claims that women are stronger than men when it comes to staying alive.  They said that from the moment they are born to old age they have being found to be more robust in this way despite men usually being physically stronger.  This is because women have two X chromosomes and men only have one.  Men have an X and a Y chromosome. During the ageing process when cells become damaged the X chromosome is damaged first.  Women have two X chromosomes whereas men only have one, so the second X chromosome helps to protect women from dying. Also, because males only having one X chromosome there is a higher risk of baby boys dying in the womb, or after birth.

American scientists have found that most female animals live longer than males and this could be due to their reproductive systems.  It is essential for a female’s body to be healthy in order to procreate.  Her body must be in good condition to harbour and grow her baby.  Studies suggest that oestrogen helps to prevent women from getting heart disease whereas testosterone doesn’t protect men against heart disease. Testosterone actually causes higher levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol. Also when men reach their late teens and early 20’s they have a surge in their testosterone levels.

This can cause them to be aggressive, to drink excessively, and to have risky behavior such as not wearing their seat belts and driving too fast. This reckless behavior may result in them having a higher death rate than women.

Hundreds of years ago in China when an emperor sought boys to serve him, he castrated them, so as not to impregnate his concubines.  Castration also occurred in Europe so boys could retain their soprano voices as they matured into adolescence.  This seemed to enable them to live longer than non castrated males.

So there are a variety of reasons why women are outliving men, some of which are genetic factors and others, lifestyle choices.  There isn’t much men can do about their genetics but they can improve their lifestyles by decreasing both their alcohol and nicotine consumption.  They can also communicate more and stay in contact with their friends when they get older. None of us know when we will pass on so it is important to try and live a happy and healthy life, enjoy our family and friends company, and be focused on living in the moment.

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