Humans are living longer worldwide — and men are closing the gap on women

MADRID, Spain — People around the world are living longer, and the longevity gap between men and women is narrowing, a new study reveals. Despite this trend, experts believe that men will not completely close this gap due to conditions linked to the Y chromosome.

This study, which categorized global populations into five clusters, observed increased life expectancies and reduced gender disparities in longevity over the past 30 years. Spanish scientists, using this data, anticipate these trends will persist into the next decade.

The study analyzed data spanning 1990 to 2000 from all continents. It found significant improvements in longevity across most countries over the last two centuries.

The international research team employed novel statistical methods to assess not only life expectancies at birth but also eight other mortality indicators, drawing on United Nations Population Division records for 194 countries. Researchers grouped these countries into five clusters based on mortality and longevity characteristics from 1990 to 2010.

During this period, some countries shifted between clusters, often due to wars and challenging socioeconomic and political conditions. However, the clusters generally correspond to continental configurations. In all five country clusters, the researchers observed rising life expectancies and a diminishing male-female mortality gap. The study’s model also forecasts these trends continuing until 2030.

Older couple eating healthy diet with vegetables
Experts believe that men will not completely close this mortality gap due to conditions linked to the Y chromosome. (© rh2010 – stock.adobe.com)

Although the team noted improvements worldwide, Africa showed the most significant progress in mortality indicators. Professor David Atance from the Universidad de Alcalá and his team suggest that the narrowing gender longevity gap might be attributed to the decline of previously common “harmful” lifestyles among blue-collar males.

“All convergence clubs and countries studied using the in-sample and out-of-sample approach have improved their mortality indicators. This fact clearly presents the growth in the aging processes around the world during the last 30 years and even this process will continue in the future, according to our projections,” the researchers write in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Even the best-performing (high-income) countries continue to grow, although these improvements slowed over time. The male-female gap is decreasing among the convergence clubs and countries. These sex differences can be mainly determined by the harmful lifestyles of blue-collar males. In the future, this gap will narrow, although sex differences will continue to exist in the future.”

“This fact can be explained by the Y chromosome, which is associated with an increased risk of mortality and age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular and heart diseases, fibrosis, cardiac dysfunction, etc.,” the study authors conclude.

“This paper has updated the literature about world convergence clubs of mortality using a more sophisticated technique, such as the clustering method, and has also provided a global view of longevity. In this study, we presented that picture including a global view of mortality, throughout seven mortality indicators, and also included a perspective of how these convergence clubs could evolve in the future for male and female populations.”

South West News Service writer James Gamble contributed to this report.


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