Older men have a 60 percent higher risk of premature death than women

LONDON — At some point, you may have heard a man say “if I make it to that age” or “I’ll be dead by then anyway.” While most write such remarks off as macho bravado or an attempt to display a devil-may-care attitude, a new study finds older men really are at a greater risk of dying earlier.

A comprehensive research project spanning 28 countries concludes that men over the age of 50 have a 60-percent greater risk of death than their female peers. Why? Study authors say much of these findings are due to higher rates of men smoking and dealing with heart disease.

“Many studies have examined the potential impact of social, behavioral and biological factors on sex differences in mortality, but few have been able to investigate potential variation across countries,” says study author Dr. Yu-Tzu Wu from King’s College London in a media release. “Different cultural traditions, historical contexts, and economic and societal development may influence gender experiences in different countries, and thus variably affect the health status of men and women.”

The differences in men across cultures

Researchers analyzed over 179,000 people during this study, with just over half (55%) being female.

While looking for possible explanations for the mortality gap between men and women, researchers left no potentially influential stone unturned. The team considered various factors including socioeconomic (education, finances), lifestyle (smoking habits, alcohol consumption), health (heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension, depression) and social (relationship status, living alone).

“The effects of sex on mortality should include not only physiologic variation between men and women but also the social construct of gender, which differs across societies. In particular, the large variation across countries may imply a greater effect of gender than sex. Although the biology of the sexes is consistent across populations, variation in cultural, societal and historical contexts can lead to different life experiences of men and women and variation in the mortality gap across countries,” researchers write.

These results, while still eye-opening, aren’t exactly breaking news. Women have generally enjoyed longer lifespans and lower death rates than men for some time.

“The heterogeneity of sex differences in mortality across countries may indicate the substantial impact of gender on healthy aging in addition to biological sex, and the crucial contributions of smoking may also vary across different populations,” the British team concludes.

Study authors suggest that public health policies in the future consider these gender differences in reference to mortality.

The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.