Reasons for Women's Life Expectancy

5.4 years. (Women's life expectancy, compared to men's, for those born today, that is.)

What factors contribute to women's longevity?

Ingrid Waldron, M.D., set out to discover them. She considered both the physical differences between the sexes and lifestyle differences. Her research included secondhand smoke and efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), movements in this country (the United States) that have grassroots support to alert the public.

"You can't tease out the societal differences from the biology,"
--Ingrid Waldron,
professor of biology,
University of Pennsylvania


It's true that the male hormone testosterone drives boys and men to "higher rates of vigorous physical activity and physical aggressiveness, which contribute to their higher rates of injury mortality," said Dr. Waldron. But even more telling for longevity is one's lifestyle.

Here are some of her findings:

Physical Factors

  • X-chromosome: Recessive mutation from this chromosome links to an increased risk of certain diseases.
  • Organ size ratio: a woman's organs are larger for her body than a man's are for him. They have a lower incidence than men of respiratory cancers, emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver.

Lifestyle Factors

  • Accidents: Women are less likely to kill themselves off in motor vehicle and other fatal accidents.
  • Aggression: Women tend to choose behaviors that are less aggressive and competitive..behaviors that are less likely to lead to heart attacks.
  • Choice and power over healthcare: Women exert greater influence on healthcare decisions for themselves, their children and spouses than men do.
  • Resourcefulness: Women use complementary and alternative medicine more often than men.

So, there's not simply ONE secret, but a pattern of behaviors--lifestyle choices, if you prefer--that lead women to expect greater longevity than men tend to have. My thanks to Dr. Waldron for her work at this research. To read a cached page Ingrid's research, click here.

Do you know how a heart attack looks for women? The classic symptoms are different, so follow this link to read more on heart disease in women:

Heart Attacks: how the look in women.

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