Probability of males to outlive females: an international comparison from 1751 to 2020

Marie-Pier Bergeron Boucher*, Jesus-Adrian Alvarez, Ilya Kashnitsky, Virginia Zarulli


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OBJECTIVE: To measure sex differences in lifespan based on the probability of males to outlive females.

DESIGN: International comparison of national and regional sex-specific life tables from the Human Mortality Database and the World Population Prospects.

SETTING: 199 populations spanning all continents, between 1751 and 2020.

PRIMARY OUTCOME MEASURE: We used the outsurvival statistic ( φ ) to measure inequality in lifespan between sexes, which is interpreted here as the probability of males to outlive females.

RESULTS: In random pairs of one male and one female at age 0, the probability of the male outliving the female varies between 25% and 50% for life tables in almost all years since 1751 and across almost all populations. We show that φ is negatively correlated with sex differences in life expectancy and positively correlated with the level of lifespan variation. The important reduction of lifespan inequality observed in recent years has made it less likely for a male to outlive a female.

CONCLUSIONS: Although male life expectancy is generally lower than female life expectancy, and male death rates are usually higher at all ages, males have a substantial chance of outliving females. These findings challenge the general impression that 'men do not live as long as women' and reveal a more nuanced inequality in lifespans between females and males.

TidsskriftBMJ Open
Udgave nummer8
StatusUdgivet - 2. aug. 2022


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