The Life Expectancy Gap Between Men and Women Is the Widest Its Been in Decades

It's hardly a secret that women generally live longer than men. But the gap in life expectancy between men and women in America is now nearly six years, the widest it has been in nearly three decades.

This is according to a new JAMA Network study, which found that the gender gap in life expectancy rose to 5.8 years in 2021. The gap marked the largest difference since 1996, with the smallest in recent history being 4.8 years in 2010. But life expectancy is overall down among Americans, from 78.8 years in 2019 and 77 years in 2020 to just 76.1 years in 2021.

In coming up with the findings, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined data from the National Center for Health Statistics to learn which causes of death were having the greatest impact on life expectancy. And what they discovered was indeed a sign on the times, as the Covid-19 pandemic, opioid overdoses, and alcohol-related deaths were key factors.

Other contributing factors included unintentional injuries, accidents, and suicide, which are often linked to economic hardship, depression, and stress. Unsurprisingly, the combined factors disproportionately affect men, in particular, more than women.

"There's been a lot of research into the decline in life expectancy in recent years, but no one has systematically analyzed why the gap between men and women has been widening since 2010," said lead author of the study, UCSF internal medicine resident Dr. Brandon Yan in a joint press release.

"While rates of death from drug overdose and homicide have climbed for both men and women, it is clear that men constitute an increasingly disproportionate share of these deaths," Yan added.