Why Men Die Young

Photo from morgueFile.com

Photo from morgueFile.com

We all know that men are more likely to die due to accidents, disease, or suicide, but there are also biological reasons men die sooner:

  • Bigger body size- Women tend to be shorter and smaller than men. Statistically, people taller than six feet don’t live as long as those who are shorter. It’s not clear why, but smaller animals tend to have longer lifespans. It holds true in most species of fish, insects, primates and dogs.
  • Estrogen protects women from heart disease for 10-15 years longer than men- Estrogen not only raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol, it keeps the inner lining of arteries flexible, allowing them to avoid damage and plaque buildup.
  • XY chromosome defects/disorders- Some chromosomes carry genes with abnormalities that cause death. Women have two X chromosomes, while men carry one X and one Y. If a detrimental gene is found on an X chromosome, girls might have a functioning copy of the gene on the second X chromosome that will overcome the defect. A boy born with a defect on the X chromosome is not likely to survive, or will die young.
  • Shorter telomeres- On this blog I’ve mentioned the roll telomeres play in making sure cells replicate with fewer errors. It turns out men are born with shorter telomeres. We’re still learning about telomeres and aging, but shortened telomeres could mean men age faster and could even  interfere with immune system function.
  • Higher Metabolic Rate- Greater muscle mass means higher metabolism. It takes more calories to maintain muscle, but it means men burn through stem cells faster too. Stem cells help re-build the body, so fewer stem cells mean less healing from men’s more frequent injuries and illness.
  • Evolution of women as caregivers- Men evolved to play a lesser role in caregiving. It benefited humans to have more robust, healthy caregivers, so women mature in specific ways that make them healthier longer. And the Victorians thought that women were weak.
  • Weaker Social Connections- Women tend to have deeper relationships, talk about their problems and have larger networks of friends. All have been associated with longer life. That’s starting to change since men are being encouraged to acknowledge and express emotions, but it’s hard to know how long that sort of cultural change takes.

So why do I post about this? If we are moving toward an age when the damage due to aging is cured or reversed, men face different challenges than women, and the odds are stacked against them. What if some of these challenges are overcome in women before they are overcome in men?

We already see a thinning of men in the older generations, what would happen if the human lifespan continues to increase, but only for women?

Will longivity and skew the world’s male/female ratio? If so, will it still be a man’s world? I’ll write about that next week.


11 Reasons Men Die Sooner than Women


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