A new study has revealed that the difference between men’s and women’s life expectancy in the US has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic. The JAMA Internal Medicine Journal reported that women now live six years longer on average — the largest gap since 1996.
“For more than a century, US women have outlived US men, attributable to lower cardiovascular and lung cancer death rates related largely to differences in smoking behavior,” explained the study’s authors. “This study systematically examines the contributions of COVID-19 and other underlying causes of death to the widened gender life expectancy gap from 2010 to 2021.”
The life expectancy of an American women is 79.3 years, while the number for men now stands at 73.5 years. The study also noted that the average life expectancy for Americans generally has fallen since 2019.
“It was unsettling to see,” Dr. Brandon Yan, a resident physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of the study told The New York Times. “We need to understand which groups are particularly losing out on years of life expectancy so interventions can be at least partially focused on these groups.”
Data from the National Center for Health Statistics was used in the study. The drop in women’s life expectancy was related to cancer and perinatal conditions, while the men’s drop was mostly attributed to “unintentional poisoning” — a category which includes alcohol or drug overdoses.
“Across the world, women tend to live longer than men for a variety of reasons, some biological—such as hormonal differences—and some behavioral,” explained Time. “Women tend to visit doctors more frequently and are less likely to smoke and drink excessively, for example.”