Why are men over 50 around the world 60% more likely than women to die early?
Two big reasons are higher rates of smoking and heart disease, according to a large new study.
The findings are based on an analysis of data from more than 179,000 people in 28 countries. Fifty-five percent were women.
Researchers examined how socioeconomic (education, wealth), lifestyle (smoking, alcohol consumption), health (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression), and social (having a spouse, living alone) factors might contribute to the higher risk of premature death in men.
The findings were published March 15 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Lead researcher Yu-Tzu Wu, of King's College London, and co-authors said many studies have examined the impact of social, behavioral, and biological factors on male-female differences in death rates, but few have investigated potential international variations.
"Different cultural traditions, historical contexts, and economic and societal development may influence gender experiences in different countries, and thus variably affect the health status of men and women," Wu and colleagues said in a journal news release.
They said those differences can lead to different life experiences for men and women and variation in the death gap across countries.
Their findings are consistent with other research about life expectancy and death rates.
The diversity of sex differences in death rates across countries may indicate the "substantial impact" of gender -- socially constructed roles of men, women, and gender-diverse people -- "in addition to biological sex, and the crucial contributions of smoking may also vary across different populations," the authors wrote.
Public health policies should account for sex- and gender-based differences and how social and cultural factors affect health, the researchers suggested.
Matt Birnholz, MDPeer