Eggleston and colleagues find women facing adversity live longer than men

woman walking tokyo A woman walking in Tokyo, Japan.

A long line of research has shown that women live longer than men, yet according to Karen Eggleston, director of the Asia Health Policy Program, and four other Stanford health researchers, mortality rate differences between men and women are much more variable than previously thought, following predictable patterns. Life expectancy differs depending on time, location and socioeconomic circumstance, not on biological factors alone, according to their newly published findings.

The researchers found that women have greater resilience when faced with socioeconomic adversity in a developing country—living nearly 10 years longer than men on average—but this pattern changes as the country evolves. Developed countries typically have smaller gaps in mortality rates between men and women than developing countries do.

Japan and South Korea are outliers, however, with higher mortality rate differences between men and women than is average for developed countries. In addition to the prevalence of male smoking, one possible explanation they draw is the lack of career-related opportunities for women in Japan and South Korea, two countries that have low gender wage equity among Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development members.

Eggleston, who is part of the core faculty at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, et al. suggested the idea that reducing gender inequality may help narrow the mortality gap: men increase years lived when fewer barriers for women exist, but concluded that their findings supporting this conclusion merit further inquiry.

Their findings were published in the August edition of SSM – Population Health and highlighted in an earlier column on Voxeu.