Throughout history, women generally live longer than men. At present, women will live an average of five years longer than you guys—a number that’s been pretty static for several generations. The disparity was long believed to be due to the fact that men drove themselves to an early grave as the primary workers in a family—an often highly physical responsibility offset with bad habits of drinking and smoking. But even now as the work force has leveled out and manual labor decreased, the numbers have yet to budge.
Still, does the fact that women will live longer than men mean they’re also healthier? That all depends. Here’s how we stack up on some critical factors:
11 percent more body fat on average
1/3 less strength than men
8 percent less muscle mass
20 percent fewer red blood cells (which decrease oxygen capacity)
More rapid heart rate (80 versus 72 on the guys)
Lower threshold for pain (unless a man’s given birth, that is, he may not be as quick to react to pain as a women, but he won’t tolerate it as long)
Less endurance (due to less body fat)
Predisposed to unhealthy dietary habits
More at risk for heart disease
Experts in aging suggest that as we mature—whether male or female—genetic faults along with environmental factors play the biggest role in determining the length and quality of our lives rather than our gender.
And just as the work force is balancing out with women now in high stress positions putting them at risk for certain illnesses, many men are developing a healthier relationship with food and nutrition, eliminating major risk factors for disease and early death.
What’s perhaps an even more crucial factor in our health is whether or not we’re in a relationship. Statistically, married couples live longer than single men or women. They’re more physically and mentally active. And research has found that regular sexual activity and intimacy like cuddling or holding hands, can boost your immune function, help you sleep better, improve your mood and keep you at an ideal body weight.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger