Do Men Have it Worse?
Nowadays, you often hear about the privilege of men and the plight of women and minorities. That being said, if told that men die earlier than women, most people probably wouldn’t be surprised. This is because men have always had significantly shorter lifespans than women. Women, on average, life five years longer than men in the United States! This gap has persisted for decades and probably even centuries, although it has closed somewhat in recent years.
My father, a man who surfs daily and has been lifting weights since he was in high school, has always jokingly told me it is his lifelong goal to outlive my mother. Hopefully a weird sense of humor isn’t a health detriment for my father’s sake, but it shows that the concept that women live longer than men seems to just be a generally accepted part of life.
Men die more from things like car accidents, homicide, and suicide. Men seem to be at risk from dying due to riskier behavior, something that might have been advantageous in our distant ape cousins battling for territory in mates, but now just seems a bit silly. However, as an avid motorcyclist who has seen a buck sixty atop my trusty steed, I probably serve better as an example of this testosterone driven behavior. Men are also exposed to harsher environments for reasons such as industrial work and the like during their lifetime.
In addition to lifestyle and environment, it is possible that men have an innate biological disadvantage. This is something not found in the racial disparities previously discussed, but is very important when comparing across genders. Women have much more estrogen than men. Estrogen has been found to have a very protective effect in the body in improving heart and vascular heath. It has also shown to be a potent antioxidant. Although, the cumulative effects and possible benefits in terms of long term morality are still debated. It is also possible that women are protected due to their very basic genetics. Women have two X chromosomes while men only have one, so women have a backup if there is a mutation in one of their X chromosomes.
Overall, it is without a doubt that women have a biological advantage that they are blessed with at birth; however, it has been found that men die faster because of a lot of social reasons and behavioral tendencies. The lifespan gap has been closing in recent years and this can possibly be contributed to improved safety standards, education, and medical techniques. It will be interesting to see if this gap continues to close or not in the near future.