The Lifespan Gap

Our life expectancies have skyrocketed over the past century, but the gains have been uneven. The elderly have made enormous gains. But as Stanford University points out, a recent study finds that the death rate among young American men remains high.

Further, the University of Chicago found that gains for American women and men were about the same until around 1940, when women shot ahead (the graph is on page 20 of this pdf, which corresponds to page 890 of the journal article).

Lifespan inequality peaked at eight years in 1982 with American men dying at an average age of 70 and women at 78. Not until recently have men started matching women’s gains, though men still die five years earlier on average at age 77 compared to women’s age 82. But it wasn’t always like this.  In 1900 the lifespan gap was only two years (48 years old for women and 46 years old for men).

That men are finally starting to see comparable gains (largely because they’re smoking less) would seem to be good news. Except for the media, many of whom put a negative spin on this. National Geographic (“Ladies Last”) called men’s gains a “troubling trend” despite women still outliving men.

But women need not worry. According to the US Social Security Administration, men are not expected to close the gap even though they’re now making health gains:

Figure 2b – Life Expectancy at Age 65


Though the Stanford article advocates a single payer healthcare system like Canada’s as the solution to American men’s health problems, this won’t fly politically.

American men must take greater charge of their health. And we have been. But we must also expect a push-back. For example, men grow moustaches every November to raise awareness for prostate cancer, which kills three-quarters as many men as breast cancer kills women (though prostate cancer receives far less funding). It’s called Movember, and according to McGill University’s student paper it’s sexist microaggression because not everyone can grow a moustache.

The best response to such nonsense is to take one’s health seriously and grow the stache anyway. Though personally, I prefer a beard.


5 thoughts on “The Lifespan Gap

  1. But women need not worry. According to the US Social Security Administration, men are not expected to close the gap even though they’re now making health gains:

    What a strange thing to say. Is closing the gap, men living longer, dying less sooner, something about which women should be concerned?

  2. I wonder when attempts to significantly increase the maximum life span by trying to defeat/reverse aging are going to be successful. Aubrey de Grey has some exciting work in this area. Looking forward to see such a graph then. Assuming I still experience these events.

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