NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Gender Gap in Health and Longevity

May 1, 2003

U.S. men die on average almost five years before women, far sooner if they're minorities, and a medical journal is calling the disparity a "silent health crisis." The American Journal of Public Health reports:

  • Men have higher death rates than women for each of the 15 leading causes of death except Alzheimer's disease.
  • Men's death rates are at least twice as high for accidents, murder, suicide and hardening of the liver.
  • Women have lived longer for the past century, and although the gap is narrowing, men's life expectancy remains almost five years shorter than for women, with black men dying almost 12 years sooner on average than white women.
  • Men are slightly more likely to get chronic diseases like high blood pressure or cancer, and twice as likely to consume more than five alcoholic drinks a day.

Among the reasons for these disparities, says sociologist David Williams of the University of Michigan, are that men are more likely than women to be in prison, to be homeless or to use of illegal drugs. Women are twice as likely as men to visit a doctor each year, and men's visits are shorter and less likely to include advice on behaviors that improve health, Williams said.

Source: Associated Press, "Shorter life spans for men called crisis," USA Today, April 29, 2003.

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