On social media, “Why women live longer than men” is a common caption for videos showing all kinds of stupid stunts. But the real answer to the large – and growing – life expectancy gap is darker, researchers say. According to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, COVID-19 and drug overdoses were the main factors that widened the gender life expectancy gap to nearly six years in 2021, the widest gap since 1996, UPI reports . Lead author Dr. Brandon Yan says the gap narrowed to 4.8 years in 2010, but has widened since then. The study reveals that women had a life expectancy of 79.3 years in 2021. For men, it was 73.5 years.
“It was disturbing to see,” said Yan, a resident physician at the University of California, San Francisco. New York Times. Researchers say men are twice as likely as women to die from an opioid overdose. They are also more likely to die by homicide or suicide. Nearly 40% of the difference was the result of higher COVID death rates among men. Biological differences such as immune responses played a role, Times note, but men are also more likely to work in industries with high exposure risk, including construction, while women have higher vaccination rates.
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, says Scientific American that it has an exaggerated effect on life expectancy when people die at younger ages. She notes that most opioid overdose victims had decades to live. “We need to understand which groups are particularly losing years of life expectancy so that interventions can be at least partially focused on these groups,” says Yan. He claims that the gap in life expectancy between men and women widened during the 20th century because men were more likely to smoke. Before 2010, this figure had declined as smoking rates fell. (In 2021, overall life expectancy in the United States declined for the second year in a row.)