Healthy living

Men will outlive women

Men will outlive women Dramatic turnaround predicted

Women may not yet claim full equality – but at least they can say they live longer, right?

Not so, according to a new study that suggests men are set to outlive women for the first time since records began.

If they are healthy at the age of 30, the research predicts that today’s 12-year-old boys can expect to live to an average age of 87.1, matching the lifespan of the girls they are at school with today.

And younger boys will go on to live even longer than their female peers in the life expectancy stakes.

The controversial forecast is made by Leslie Mayhew, professor of statistics at Cass Business School at City University. His findings are due to be published in a Cass Business School report next month.

They contradict predictions by the Office for National Statistics, which state that boys born in 2000 will still die 3.5 years earlier than their female counterparts.

If true, it marks a dramatic turnaround for the fortunes of men: as recently as 1970 a 30-year-old man was expected to die nearly six years before a woman of the same age.

The research suggests that changing lifestyles and medical leaps since the 1960s – such as a fall in the number of men smoking, a decline in heavy industry and improved treatment for heart disease – have contributed to boost men’s lifespan.

It has until now been widely understood that genetic factors predisposed men to earlier deaths than women: male chimpanzees show a similar pattern, living to 45 compared to female chimps who can live to 59.

Prof Mayhew said: “There has been a huge decline in the numbers working in heavy industry; far fewer males smoke than before and there is much better treatment for heart disease, which tends to affect more males than females.”

He said the ONS had been too cautious – and that other countries show a similar trend. For instance, in Sweden by 2014 a 30-year-old male can expect to live as long as a 30-year-old woman.

The key factor is that longer longevity only kicks in once they have reached the age of 30: life expectancy at birth remains much better for girls than boys. This is because baby boys are expected to be more fragile than infant girls and young men are more likely to die in sporting and road accidents.

Prof Mayhew’s calculations, however, apply only to England and Wales: Scotland, where life expectancy is generally lower, is not included in his findings.

The ONS said today it stands by its data and that many factors should be taken into account.

This article was published on Mon 23 April 2012



Image © Robert Hammer - Fotolia.com


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