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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Note on Emerging Science

Air Date: Week of

Is natural selection sexist? Some new data says women are living longer than men in almost every nation in the world. Living on Earth’s Emily Taylor reports.


TAYLOR: According to recent data from the World Health Organization, women are for the first time ever outliving men in almost every nation on the planet. Women’s life expectancy from birth is now higher than that of men in every country except Qatar, Niger, Zimbabwe and Tonga. Although men may have the edge in these four countries this year, the trend of women living longer is one that has been consistently increasing since the turn of the century.

An editorial piece in the British Journal of Medicine pointed this out. Professors Daniel Dorling and George Smith argue that eventually women will live longer everywhere, but just when this tipping point will be reached is somewhat random. For the past several years a handful of countries have alternately been reporting women and men living longer than each other in subsequent years.
Eventually, they say the data will coincide – and women will come out ahead.

Dorling and Smith attribute this trend to both biological and social factors. Women have increasingly better access to healthcare and greater emancipation. In turn, their life expectancy has become a good indicator of life expectancy for everyone.

But, there’s also been a backlash in the women’s health arena. In Western European nations, the gap that was once very large – in favor of women – is now narrowing. This reason, according to Dorling and Smith, is due to the fact that women’s behavior in these countries is beginning to mirror that of men, mainly with smoking habits. And in many developing nations death during childbirth remains the number one killer of women ages 15 through 49, which greatly affects the life expectancy of females, as well. But these two factors have yet to reverse the trend. That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Emily Taylor.



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