Women largely know that they’ll probably outlive the men in their lives—it’s a known fact that women live longer than men. But by how much? New research finds that there’s a larger gap between how long both sexes live in recent years. Men, in general, will die 6 years before women, according to new data.
Researchers from UC San Francisco and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported that the difference between how long men and women in the US live went up to 5.8 years in 2021–that’s the highest it’s been since 1996. In 2010, the gap was 4.8 years, which was the smallest in recent years.
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
What’s causing the trend? Experts say the pandemic is to blame, but there are other factors like the opioid epidemic, accidents and suicide.
“There’s been a lot of research into the decline in life expectancy in recent years, but no one has systematically analyzed why the gap between men and women has been widening since 2010,” Brandon Yan, MD, a UCSF internal medicine resident physician and research collaborator at Harvard Chan School, said in a statement.
Americans’ life expectancy fell from 78.8 years in 2019 down to 77 years in 2020 and then it dropped to 76.1 years in 2021.
“While rates of death from drug overdose and homicide have climbed for both men and women, it is clear that men constitute an increasingly disproportionate share of these deaths,” Yan said.
Interestingly, the largest contributors to early death before the pandemic were unintentional injuries, diabetes, suicide, homicide, and heart disease. During the Covid pandemic, men were more apt to die from the virus.
Yan said the results raise questions about whether more specialized care for men, such as in mental health, should be developed to address the growing disparity in life expectancy.
“We have brought insights to a worrisome trend,” Yan said. “Future research ought to help focus public health interventions towards helping reverse this decline in life expectancy.”