Home Men Health U.S. Men Are Dying Much Earlier Than Women, as Death ‘Gender Gap’ Widens

U.S. Men Are Dying Much Earlier Than Women, as Death ‘Gender Gap’ Widens

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U.S. Men Are Dying Much Earlier Than Women, as Death ‘Gender Gap’ Widens

MONDAY, Nov. 13, 2024 (HealthDay News) — The gap in life expectancy between American men and girls is now the largest it has been because the mid-Nineties — almost six years.

The pandemic and opioid overdoses are key aspects within the gender difference in longevity, said researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“There’s been lots of research into the decline in life expectancy lately, but nobody has systematically analyzed why the gap between men and girls has been widening since 2010,” said first study writer Dr. Brandon Yan, a resident in internal medicine at UCSF.

In 2021, the gender gap in life expectancy rose to five.8 years, its largest since 1996, he and his colleagues report. In 2010, the gap was its smallest in recent history, 4.8 years.

Life expectancy in america was 76.1 years in 2021. That’s down from 78.8 years in 2019 and 77 years in 2020.

Researchers cited the pandemic as the largest consider the widening gender gap; it took a heavier toll on men. Unintentional injuries and poisonings (mostly drug overdoses), accidents and suicide were other contributors.

One other consider Americans’ shrinking lifespan: so-called “deaths of despair.” That’s a nod to the rise in deaths owing to such causes as suicide, drug use disorders and alcoholic liver disease. These are sometimes linked to economic hardship, depression and stress.

“While rates of death from drug overdose and homicide have climbed for each men and girls, it is obvious that men constitute an increasingly disproportionate share of those deaths,” Yan said in a joint news release from UCSF and Harvard.

He and colleagues from across the country used data from the National Center for Health Statistics to zero in on the causes of death that were contributing most to shrinking life expectancy. After that, they examined how much different causes were contributing to the gap.

For quite a few reasons, men were more prone to die of COVID throughout the pandemic. Researchers pointed to differences in health behaviors in addition to risk of on-the-job exposure, reticence to hunt medical care, being in jail and housing instability. Also factoring in were chronic metabolic disorders, mental illness and gun violence.

The findings were published online Nov. 13 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Now we have brought insights to a worrisome trend,” Yan said. “Future research must help focus public health interventions towards helping reverse this decline in life expectancy.”

He said the findings raise questions on the necessity to develop specialized care, resembling in mental health, for men.

Senior writer Dr. Howard Koh, a professor of public health leadership at Harvard, said follow-up shall be needed to see if the trends change after 2021.

“We want to trace these trends closely because the pandemic recedes,” he said. “And we must make significant investments in prevention and care to make sure that this widening disparity, amongst many others, doesn’t grow to be entrenched.”

More information

Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker compares U.S. life expectancy to that in other countries.

SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco/Harvard University, joint news release, Nov. 13, 2023

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