The question of whether women are weaker than men has over the years provoked raging debates. Scientists have, however, confirmed what women are way stronger than men who have been declared the weaker sex. Women today are not just living longer than men, they are surviving in extreme conditions as proved by historical records.
These and much more are contained in a research published in the Journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research, published on January 8, 2018, points out that women today tend to live longer than men worldwide, and even more than a decade in certain countries. Here is why:
Women survive famine and diseases than men
The research led by Virginia Zarulli, an assistant professor at the University of Southern Denmark, and James Vaupel, a research professor at Duke University, analysed mortality data stretching back 250 years for those whose lives were cut short by famine or diseases. The data spanned seven populations in which the life expectancy for one or both sexes was 20 years or less.
Many of these populations were working and former slaves in Trinidad and the United States in the early 1800s, famine victims in Sweden, Ireland and Ukraine in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The others were Icelanders affected by the 1846 and 1882 measles epidemics.
The research found that for example, women lived more on slave plantations in Trinidad, during famines in Sweden as well as measles outbreaks in Ireland.
Women also lived more than men in West Africa in the 1800s.
For instance, more than 40 percent freed American slaves who relocated to Liberia in the 1800s died and this was mainly due to tropical diseases they could not possibly resist. Babies born during that time hardly made it beyond their second birthday. And even with this situation in the West African country, the researchers found that even though mortality was very high for both sexes, women still lived longer than men by six months to almost four years. Life expectancy was a low 1.68 years for boys, but 2.23 years for girls.
In 1933, girls that were born during the famine that hit Ukraine, for example, lived to 10.85, and boys to 7.3; a 50 percent difference.
Differences in infant mortality
The researchers subsequently broke down the results they had by age group and found that most of the females were surviving more due to differences in infant mortality.
“To find the female advantage so marked and consistent among all the populations was surprising,” lead researcher Zarulli said. “Even more surprising was to find that the biggest part of the sex difference in life expectancy during these crises was determined by striking differences in survival among infants. This is the most interesting result.”
Specifically, newborn girls were tougher than newborn boys.
And the results showed that the female advantage could not be explained via behavioural and social differences between both sexes, such as their ability to take risks or engage in violence. But rather, the women’s ability to live longer in times of crisis was largely due to biological factors such as genetics or hormones.
As Zarulli noted, the most prominent female hormones, estrogens, protect blood vessels and defend against a range of diseases.
“Testosterone, the most prominent male hormone, increases the risk of several fatal conditions – besides being the cause of reckless behaviours, more typical of men, that increase the risk of accidental and violent deaths.”
Behavioural factors in contemporary populations
The research found that in contemporary populations, men tend to be risk-takers than women and this contributes to the sex gap in life expectancy.
“Men consume tobacco, alcohol, and psychoactive substances in greater quantities, drive less safely and eat less salubriously than women do; this results in elevated risks of cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, liver cirrhosis, and accident fatalities,” the researchers pointed out.
But the researchers were quick to add that this cannot fully explain the sex difference in survival, as earlier explained.