Men or Women: Who Lives Longer and Why?

  Who lives longer, men or women?
In recent years, several studies have demonstrated that in the industrialized part of the world, women outlive men by 5 to 10 years. In fact, 85 percent of people who live to be 100 years old are women.

Dr. Robert Eisenberg, a board-certified urologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, answers questions comparing longevity between genders and offers tips to help men live healthier and longer.

Why do women live longer than men?
While there are several theories on why women live longer than men, one of the more important factors relates to women’s delay of developing cardiovascular disease. Men are at a greater disadvantage than women when it comes to this and other related diseases, such as stroke, because men are likely to develop the disease earlier in life — in their 50s or 60s — whereas women tend to develop it in their 70s and 80s.

What are some of the other factors that contribute to women’s longevity compared with men?
Numerous studies have suggested that biological factors — including genetics and hormones — as well as certain lifestyle behaviors, contribute to women’s longer lifespans. Here are a few:

  • Double X chromosomes — Compared with males, females are at lesser risk of developing certain conditions associated with genetic mutations, such as hemophilia. All females possess double x chromosomes, and any abnormal mutation that may occur in the gene of one x chromosome is offset by the gene in the "spare" x chromosome, thereby protecting the female. Males, who possess only one x chromosome, are not provided the same protection from these genetic mutations.
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption — Men are more likely than women to engage in these behaviors, which have a negative impact on overall health.
  • Testosterone — The most defining biological difference between men and women is testosterone, the hormone which defines maleness (although women produce small amounts as well). Testosterone is responsible for driving aggressive and risky behaviors, which make men — younger adults in particular — more likely to die from causes related to accidents, violence or suicide.

What can men do to live healthier, longer lives?
Fortunately, there is evidence that the longevity gap is closing, as more men develop better health habits. Here are a few ways that can help men live healthier and longer:

  • Cut down on drinks — Reducing alcohol consumption lowers the risk of alcohol-related illness. Men under age 65 should not drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day. Men over age 65 should have no more than one drink a day.
  • De-stress — Stress is also recognized as a risk factor for heart disease. Whether it's regular exercise, yoga meditation or stress management classes, there are a number of ways to manage daily stress.
  • Eat right, get physical — Nutrition and exercise go a long way in lowering cholesterol, preventing obesity and reducing risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It's important to eat more heart-healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Daily physical activity, even walking for 30 minutes, can also make a difference in keeping the extra pounds off.
  • Keep up with health screenings — Men are notorious for skipping doctor's visits, but regular annual check-ups are an important part of the health equation. Men should talk to their doctors about how often they should be screened for certain diseases and conditions, including prostate cancer, skin cancer, colon cancer, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Quit smoking or don't start — Being smoke-free significantly reduces the risk of deadly diseases such as cancer, lung disease and stroke.
Dr. Robert Eisenberg About the Expert
Dr. Robert Eisenberg is a board-certified urologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. He practices out of La Mesa and National City, Calif.