Title: Life Expectancy Gap Between U.S. Women and Men Widens to Near Two-Decade High
The gap in life expectancy between women and men in the United States has reached a near two-decade high, with women now outliving men by almost six years in 2021. This widening gap can be attributed to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on mortality rates, as well as the “twin crises of deaths from despair and firearm violence.”
Data from 2010 to 2019 revealed that the life expectancy gap had been gradually increasing by approximately two and a half months. This was primarily due to factors such as accidental injuries, diabetes, suicide, homicide, and heart disease. However, the gap escalated dramatically from 2019 to 2021, more than tripling to seven and a half months during the ongoing pandemic.
Experts have noted that men experienced a higher number of COVID-19 deaths compared to women. This discrepancy can be attributed to several factors, including the higher burden of disease among men, differences in health behaviors, and socioeconomic factors.
The decline in life expectancy is not exclusive to a single gender. Both men and women in the U.S. have been facing decreasing life expectancies, with 2021 marking the second consecutive year of decline. Contributing to this decrease are what are called “deaths of despair,” which include suicide, drug use, and alcoholic liver disease.
Surprisingly, men constitute a disproportionate share of these deaths, with approximately 80% of suicides and 70% of accidental drug overdoses occurring among men. Furthermore, men accounted for 55% of COVID-19 deaths, underscoring the urgent need for targeted care and support in areas like mental health to bridge the life expectancy gap.
While the U.S. struggles with this growing disparity, it is important to note that globally, women typically outlive men in nearly every country. This global gender gap in life expectancy is likely influenced by various factors, including differences in behaviors and biological factors such as estrogen and the immune system.
The widening life expectancy gap between women and men in the United States calls for immediate action to address the underlying causes. A comprehensive approach that encompasses public health initiatives, mental health services tailored to men, and measures to address the social and economic determinants of health is crucial in narrowing this unwelcome divide.
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