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Getting To The Heart Of The Matter: Lower Life Expectancy In Men, Study Shows

Last updated June 2, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

According to research scientists, data shows that heart disease is the main condition contributing to the decreased life expectancy in men born after the year 1900. Prevention of heart disease includes quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising.


A team of research scientists from the University of Southern California at Davis, School of Gerontology and University of California, Los Angeles, has reviewed data to show that heart disease is the main condition contributing to the decreased life expectancy in men born after the year 1900.

It has been known for some time that women outlive men. According to the World Health Organization, women outlive men around the globe and the average gap in life expectancy is 5 years. Scientists have been trying to understand this gap and the reasons for it.

In the study being discussed here, researchers analyzed data from 1763 birth cohorts from 1800-1935, originating in 13 developed countries. The analysis shows:

  • Infection prevention and better lifestyles resulted in increased life expectancy in people born in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  • Women benefited more from this drop in death rate.
  • In men born between 1900-1935, heart disease is the main condition associated with ‘excess male mortality’.
  • This excess male mortality is characteristic of 50-70 year old men.
  • The gender difference in mortality declined after age 80.
  • Smoking contributed to a 30% increase in mortality in men born between 1900-1930.
  • After adjusting the mortality rate for smoking, heart disease was still the major contributing factor to mortality.

 In the authors’ opinion, “The greater male vulnerability to cardiovascular conditions emerged with the reduction in infectious mortality and changes in health-related behaviors.”

One of the authors, Caleb Finch, says to USC News, “The uneven impact of cardiovascular illness-related deaths on men, especially during middle and early older age, raises the question of whether men and women face different heart disease risks due to inherent biological risks and/or protective factors at different points in their lives. Further study could include analysis of diet and exercise activity differences between countries, deeper examination of genetics and biological vulnerability between sexes at the cell level, and the relationship of these findings to brain health at later ages.”

By Mangala Sarkar, PhD

References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 2, 2015
Last updated: June 2, 2015