Why US women now outlive men by nearly 6 years: study

Why US women now outlive men by nearly 6 years: study
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From 2019 to 2021, the pandemic emerged as the primary factor widening the gender life expectancy gap, disproportionately impacting men

November 28, 2023
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New research has revealed a widening gender gap in life expectancy in the U.S., with women projected to live about six years longer than men, marking the largest disparity since 1996.
A growing disparity: Published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Nov.13, the study led by the University of California, San Francisco and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health attributes the rise in life expectancy gender gap to the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid overdose epidemic.
In 2010, the U.S. gender gap was 4.8 years, which subsequently grew to 5.8 years at the height of the pandemic in 2021. During this period, the average life expectancy stood at 73.5 years for men and 79.3 years for women.
Pandemic’s disproportionate toll: From 2019 to 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as the primary factor widening the gender life expectancy gap, disproportionately impacting men. Other factors identified were unintentional injuries, drug overdoses, accidents and suicide.
Key contributors to this phenomenon include health behaviors, occupational risks, reluctance to seek medical care, as well as incarceration and housing instability, all of which played pivotal roles in the surge of what is commonly termed “deaths of despair” — a phrase encapsulating fatalities associated with economic hardship, depression and stress.
Ties to mental health: Brandon Yan, the paper’s first author, told the Boston Herald that men also constitute an increasingly disproportionate share of deaths from causes like drug overdose and homicide.
“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,” Yan said. “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.” 
Calls for action: The study emphasizes the need for specialized care, particularly in mental health, to address the growing life expectancy disparity.
Howard Koh, senior author of the study, underscored the importance of a proactive approach to addressing societal factors contributing to men’s increased vulnerability. 
“We need to track these trends closely as the pandemic recedes,” Koh explained. “And we must make significant investments in prevention and care to ensure that this widening disparity, among many others, do not become entrenched.”
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      Ryan General

      Ryan General
      is a Senior Reporter for NextShark

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