Public Health

Why American men die younger than women on average and how to fix it

Men who are younger than women in the United States, on average.

American women had a life expectancy of 79 years in 2021, compared with men’s, which was only about 73, according to CDC data.

“As long as records have been kept in all countries, women have lived longer than men,” said Amelia Karraker, a program official at the National Institute on Aging. “Across, basically, almost every major cause of death, men are more likely to die than women are.”

The US has a higher rate of avoidable deaths, which is measured as death before the age of 75, among men than any comparable country.

But there hasn’t always been such a large gap between men and women. What became known as “the female advantage” arose around 1890 and continued to grow throughout the 20th century, except for a decline during the 1918 flu pandemic.

This change over time suggests to researchers that there could be an environmental component to life expectancy. That means there are some steps we can take to work toward helping men live longer.

“Everybody, men as well as women, benefit from a suite of particular behaviors,” Karraker said. “A healthy diet, getting physical activity, not smoking, no-to-moderate alcohol consumption, maintaining deep, supportive social relationships. These are things that benefit everybody, including men.”

“What is it about the socialization of men that means that they’re not participating in the health-care system the way they should be to extend their lives?” said Darrell Bricker, global CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs and co-author of the book “Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline.”

This life expectancy gap can have serious implications for society as a whole.

“If you make it to age 60 to 65, you can still expect to live a pretty long time,” said Nari Rhee, director of the Retirement Security Program at UC Berkeley Labor Center. “And I would say it’s a particular issue for women, because women can expect to live longer, but they’ve had lower earnings, they’ve had patchier careers because of caregiving, both for children and often for elders.”

This financial disadvantage for women could put a strain on the federal safety net, specifically Social Security.

“Demography really is destiny,” Bricker said. “If you change the shape of people, you change the shape of everything.”

Watch the Video above to learn more about why men die younger on average than women and what we can do to change it.

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