Life Expectancies for Men
By Ruby Laine
Ruby Laine (she/her) is a current undergraduate student at The George Washington University pursuing a Bachelor's of Science in Public Health. She is passionate about improving health outcomes for underserved communities, families, and children. She wishes
to assist in expanding access to healthcare and promote healthy lifesyle behaviors. She has previously worked with the NYC City Council in District 2 under Carlina Rivera while being an advocate for constituents and the community. As a member of the editorial team of Today’s Patient as a Senior Contributor, Ruby focuses on reaching out to wider audiences, to spread awareness for health concerns and improve health literacy.
Understanding the Male Life Expectancy
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the life expectancy for males is around 73.5 years on average. Yet, their female counterparts have a life expectancy of 79.3 years. For the first time ever, the US is experiencing drops in life expectancy. It is estimated that once Generation Z has kids, the next generation will be the first to not have higher life expectancies than their parents.
Why are life expectancies overall decreasing?
The pandemic was a significant shift for everyone, and years after the first outbreak, we still feel its impact. Covid-19 became one of the top 3 killers of Americans, only behind heart disease and cancer. Recently another public health concern has risen with overdoses and drug-related deaths. Lastly, suicide and poor mental health are among the increasing concerns for public health and life expectancies.
Why are men experiencing lower life expectancies?
Some scientists concur that many factors are contributors, such as risky behaviors, poor lifestyle habits, and even less estrogen. Men are more likely to partake in smoking and excessive drinking, they are more likely to take risks that increase their risk of life-threatening injuries, and they are less likely to visit a doctor. Men are more likely to avoid doctors in fear of receiving bad news, being seen as less masculine, or simply because it is not ingrained in them to make regular visits, unlike women and suggested OB/GYN appointments. In a study titled The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behavior, men are likelier to play risky sports, have dangerous occupations, and even make "stupid" decisions (the study said it, not me). Some biological reasons are also being explored, such as increased estrogen can assist in reducing harmful cholesterol related to heart disease. Women are also thought to have more robust innate immune systems and, therefore, can fight off viral infections with better protective antibodies. Men are also at the heart of the increase in suicides. On average, women are much more likely to report and seek help when struggling, but due to stigma and cultural norms, men don't receive the support they should. Another critical factor is that as you age, social connections become incredibly important for mental health and overall well-being, which older
men tend to struggle with.
What can be done?
Doctor's appointments for check-ups or taking that initiative when something is off can save your life. Screening and prevention are necessary to stay healthy as we age. Prioritizing your mental health and asking for help if needed is crucial. Interventions working to change the stigma and current mindsets in men around care must be prioritized to see a change in life expectancy. On a more personal level, our bodies deteriorate with age; it's natural. Still, how you take care of it makes the difference. This means having a healthy and balanced diet, being physically active, drinking water, getting good sleep, having close friends, and talking about your feelings. Health is holistic, and it should be treated as such. Additionally, expanding access and treatment availability, as well as education in prevention, could all benefit and work to increase male life expectancy.