Why Men Don’t Live as Long as Women

It’s a well-known fact that on average, women live longer than men. If you’ve ever visited a facility catering to the elderly, you know this is indeed the case. That men die younger is a given, but determining why isn’t quite as simple. Men in general are often involved in more dangerous work situations and are more likely to take risks but much of the difference in life span can’t easily be explained only by these. So what other factors are at play?

From birds to humans, the answer is pretty much the same: testosterone. It’s complicated, of course. Both males and females have it but males obviously have it in much greater amounts. It’s essential for reproduction in both genders but the higher amounts in males has a high price, longevity-wise. It makes men more likely to suffer issues like heart attacks but can also lower immunity to diseases. It’s a double whammy.

Is there no hope for men? Yes and no. Obviously testosterone is necessary to ensure a species continues. Oddly enough, the historical record regarding eunuchs and others who were castrated  doesn’t show a significant difference in lifespan so that in itself isn’t the answer either. But human males may still have reason to hope. We’ve evolved to have much greater paternal roles in child rearing than pretty much any other animal. There is evolutionary pressure to live longer and to avoid some of the behaviors to contribute to earlier mortality. It won’t be enough to eliminate the gap with women but it is likely to shrink it. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.