For a long time, the life expectancy of women increased faster than that of men. But since the end of the 20th century this difference has been smaller. Researchers at the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) investigated the reason for this in a study that they published on Tuesday. To do this, they examined data from 228 regions in seven European countries.
While men had an average life expectancy of seven years less in the mid-1990s, the figure in the past few decades was only 5.5 years. Regional differences emerged: in southern Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, a difference of less than four years was observed, while in parts of eastern Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and France it was six years.
Clear urban-rural divide
According to the study, which also examined regions in Austria, there was a clear urban-rural divide. Because the good job opportunities in big cities would have attracted more healthy and qualified people. The fact that men had to expect a significantly lower age at death for a long time is due to the fact that in the past they were in paid work and had carried higher health risks than women.
There are several reasons for the dwindling differences: pacemakers have reduced the risk of death, men smoked less, while tobacco consumption by women increased. As the proportion of women in paid work has increased, the gap due to work-related health risks has also decreased.
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The conclusion: Not biological reasons, but lifestyle and disease prevention are decisive for life expectancy. And the differences between men and women in this regard decrease as role models converge. In Germany, according to the Federal Statistical Office, the average life expectancy at birth in 2022 was 82.9 years for women and 78.2 years for men.