With the threat of nuclear war with North Korea looming over our heads, you better keep women close – not because they need protecting, but because they are the only ones who are getting you out alive. New research in 2018 has shown that women are more likely to survive a life-threatening crisis than men, which is news to literally no one who’s ever actually been a woman.
Anyone who’s ever witnessed the beloved fairer sex suffer through a dreaded “man cold” knows that women are stronger than men. Reese Witherspoon said it best at the Glamour Women of Year Awards when she proclaimed, “Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don’t they tell people in crisis, even children, ‘If you’re in trouble, talk to a woman?’” Now, science backs it up. Around the world, female life expectancy squashes that of their male counterparts, but the reason why women live longer might just surprise you.
Females have a number of survival advantages. As a sex that’s been notoriously ridiculed for being weaker and more fragile, it turns out that the very fabric of their being is inherently stronger from birth. Women who survive don’t just win out in the best case scenario; they win across the board. From disease to famine to slavery to simply putting up with trolls on the internet, women are natural-born survivors who thrive in the bleakest circumstances – again, tell us something history hasn’t.
So, before you ridicule a woman for sitting around and enjoying the stereotypically masculine pleasures of sipping on a glass of aged whiskey with a good Netflix true crime documentary, for enjoying the shallow beast that is a Real Housewives of Orange County marathon, or for simply voicing her grievances at a celebrity’s hyper-aggressive sexual behavior, know that she could probably kick your butt.
Researchers Examined Over 250 Years Of Humanity’s Most Dire Events
Researchers examined data from the past 250 years that spanned seven populations in situations so dire the life expectancy for both sexes was less than 20 years. This included everything from the Irish Potato Famine to the measles epidemics of 1846 and 1882.
The most extreme portion of data included was the information surrounding freed slaves in Liberia. In the 1800s, Liberia experienced the highest mortality rates ever recorded when freed American slaves relocated to West Africa. Over 40 percent of the liberated slaves died in the first year from tropical diseases and babies struggled to reach their second birthday. Across the board, women were the most likely to survive.
Women Live An Average Of 2.1 Years Longer During A Viral Outbreak
If the world ever goes all 28 Days Later, it’s a safe bet that women will be surviving the zombie apocalypse, at least compared to their brothers, boyfriends, husbands, and any other male acquaintances. Women regularly outlive men when it comes to the harrowing reality of being hit with some of the deadliest diseases on the planet.
Researchers delved into data from the 1882 measles epidemic in Iceland to find that ladies lasted 2.1 years longer than men when things went viral. During this period, women lived to be an average of 18.8 years old, but men only lived to be an average of 16.7 years old. Overall, this was pretty grim considering the life expectancy was about 44 years for women and 38 years for men prior to the outbreak, but it does prove that women showed greater resilience.
Women Live An Average Of 3.7 Years Longer During Widespread Famine
If you’re facing intense famine (perhaps after our crops are destroyed by radioactive soil), you’re a little bit luckier if you’re a woman. Researchers found the women outlive men when food is scarce.
The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the way the Irish Potato Famine affected the life expectancy of men and women. The famine began in 1846 when a fungus-like blight infected Ireland’s largest crop. The outbreak was widespread until 1851 and claimed about a million lives during its five years of destruction. On average, women lived 3.7 years longer than men in these dire circumstances.
It wasn’t only women who fared better; girls did, too. During the 1933 Ukrainian famine, newborn girls lived to be an average of 10.85 years old, while newborn boys only made it to an average of 7.3 years.
Girls Outlive Boys In Infancy, Meaning Their Survival Skills Are Biological
A 2018 female survival advantage study from Germany and Denmark showed that women survived longer in times of famine and disease. It also showed at the root of the sex’s ramped-up life expectancy was the resilience of newborn baby girls. Across the board, infant mortality was higher for boys than it was for girls. This was in spite of the fact that parental attitudes historically preferred male offspring (it wasn’t the firstborn daughter that was threatened by the plagues of Egypt; it was the firstborn son). In some cases, families were more willing to seek out treatment and food for their sons, who were responsible for continuing the family name.
“It is even more remarkable that, despite a potential discrimination against them, baby girls survived more [than baby boys],” said Virginia Zarulli, the study’s lead author and assistant professor at the Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark.
On top of that, pregnant women are more likely to give birth to girls when a crisis strikes. A studyrevealed a dip in the ratio of male-to-female births during a famine in the country of Shige Song. Experts aren’t exactly sure why there’d be more baby girls, but some believe that baby boys are an inherent genetic gamble. Food is scarce; girls are resilient; and as a result, your body makes sure to give you a daughter if times are tough.
Today, Women Regularly Outlive Men By More Than A Decade
Though history serves as our witness, women are still more resilient than men in today’s society. Though life expectancy is ever-increasing worldwide (with a slight two year dip in US life expectancy), women regularly outlive men by over a decade. The widest gap is found in Russia, where the average man lives to be 64.7 years old and the average woman lives to be 76.3. That’s over an 11 year difference. In places like Japan, which has the longest life expectancy for both sexes, the average man lives to be 80, while the average woman lives to be 86. Across the board, women outlive men.
Testosterone Might Actually Be Deadly
The worldwide phenomenon known as the “man flu” is absolutely real (as much as we may detest when our whiny boyfriends claim to be on their death beds with the slightest hint of a cold). Research has shown that men have a greater risk of being admitted to the hospital, have higher rates of flu-related deaths, and are more susceptible to complications from severe respiratory diseases. This is largely attributed to estrogen, the life-blood coursing through women’s veins. Estrogen is known to boost the immune system while testosterone, the most prominent hormone in men, can suppress it. Testosterone has been known to increase the risk of heart disease, infection, and cancer later in life.
Korean scientist Han-Nam Park discovered testosterone’s tendency to thwart life expectancy after analyzing records from the Imperial Court of the Chosun Dynasty in Korea. These 19th century records included information about 81 eunuchs who had their testicles removed before they reached puberty. The eunuchs managed to live an average of 70 years while regular men who kept their testicles lived for 50 years. They were 130 times more likely to make it to their 100th birthday.
Women’s Survival Might Be Chromosomal
When it comes down to it, women have a safeguard that men don’t. One theory alleges that women regularly outlive men because their double X chromosomes safeguard them against diseases as their cells begin to malfunction with age.
It’s really simple when you look at it. Women have two X chromosomes, but men have an X and a Y chromosome. This means that women keep two copies of every single gene they have, while men keep just one. If a gene is faulty or malfunctions with age, women have another to fall back on. Men don’t, so they’re at a greater risk for diseases like cancer. In the UK, it’s estimated that men are 40% more likely to die from cancer and 16% more likely to contract the disease
Size Might Actually Matter
Another theory as to why women regularly outlive men is simply size. Men are taller and have more cells in their bodies. The more cells, the more likely something is going to develop a harmful mutation (think: men’s increased risk for cancer). If you subscribe to the Trumpian idea that you’re born with a limited amount of energy like a Duracell battery, it’s almost certain that men burn through it more quickly because they’re bigger (and probably would be better suited with a nine-volt instead of three AAAs). Some people believe men’s larger size really does cause extra wear and tear (other people, including numerous medical professionals, believe it’s fake news).
Women’s Periods Might Be Giving Them A Real, Healthy Workout
Men are overwhelmingly more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and some people attribute this to women’s menstrual cycles. In case you weren’t aware, while you’re wrist deep in that pint of Ben & Jerry’s, your menstrual cycle is giving you a Shake Weight-worthy workout that staves off cardiovascular disease until later in life. Chalk it up to the single, only benefit of bleeding for a week straight every single month (besides being able to have kids and/or confirmation that you’re not actually pregnant even though you forgot to use a condom).
The “jogging female heart” hypothesis alleges that women’s heart rates increase during the second half of their menstrual cycle which is as beneficial as a moderate workout. Men actually have to work for the benefits (and maybe skip the Planet Fitness pizza).
Male Drug Addiction Caused A Dip In America’s Life Expectancy
In December of 2017, the CDC released an eye-opening report about shrinking American life expectancy, but it wasn’t women who were tipping the scales in the wrong direction. While women’s life expectancy remained at 81.1 years, men’s life expectancy slipped backwards to 76.1 years for the second year in a row. This is the first time life expectancy dipped consecutively since the 1960s, and it falls largely on the shoulders of millennial men.
Between 2015 and 2016, the death rate of people ages 24 to 34 increased by a whopping 10%. This was largely attributed to the rise in fentanyl overdoses, which pushed the category of unintentional injuries to third place in America’s leading causes of death (it clocked in right behind heart disease and cancer). Over 63,600 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, and the rate was highest among men.
The Biggest Health Threat To Women Is Men
Women might be able to battle the most extreme circumstances – from widespread disease to famine and natural disasters – but one of their biggest threats remains the men that they love. According to Dr. Kirtly Parket Jones, a professor at University of Utah Health Care, one in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. Out of every woman murdered in the United States, one in three is killed by an intimate partner.
A 2016 study launched by Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety found that intimate partner violence was the single biggest risk factor for women’s health. It ranked above alcohol use, smoking and obesity for women ages 18 to 44.