Comparative Longevity and Excess Male Deaths

When it comes to disadvantage, being dead takes some beating. And when it comes to dying, men’s dominance remains unchallenged.

Let’s start by looking at all deaths, taking data from the ONS Excel file Death Registration Summary Tables, 2013. It is well known that males have a shorter life expectancy than females. Based on 2010-12 data the life expectancy at birth for men and women is 79.11 and 82.93 years respectively (averaged over the whole UK) a difference of 3.82 years. What is less widely appreciated is that this is the result of an excess of male deaths at all ages up to 84. The data below are the numbers of deaths of males minus the number of deaths of females in each of the indicated age ranges. The last column gives this difference as a percentage of the number of female deaths.

All UK Deaths (2013)

age range excess deaths:

males – females

as percentage: 

100(m-f)/f

<28 days 271 33
28 days to 1 year 120 32
1-4 years 39 17
5-14 years 58 23
15-24 years 804 129
25-34 years 1,280 92
35-44 years 2,233 69
45-54 years 3,988 50
55-64 years 7,977 49
65-74 years 13,805 41
75-84 years 6,617 9

Male deaths exceed female deaths in every age range, from one month old to age 84 by which time there are few men remaining and the excess women must eventually die. The remarkable thing about the above data is that the excess of male deaths is such a large percentage of the female deaths. This is most marked for young men in the age range 15 to 24 years for which this is 129%, i.e., there are substantially more than double the number of deaths of males than females in this age range.

The above data presents a broadly consistent picture with that from the British Heart Foundation (Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2014) ,

All UK Deaths (2012)

Age range

men women ratio (m/w)
<35 7,452 4,235

1.76

35 – 44

6,279 3,726 1.69
45 – 54 13,625 9,449

1.44

55 – 64

28,214 19,534 1.44
65 – 74 54,073 38,960

1.39

75 – 84

86,332 81,794 1.06
85+ 77,372 137,979

0.56

Up to age 84, the total number of deaths of males exceeded that of females by 38,277 in 2012 and by 37,192 in 2013.

This is despite there being more females in the population. More male babies are born (in 2012 the data were  417,058 live male births and 395,912 live female births, an excess of 21,146 males). But despite that the greater attrition of males leads to there being over a million more females than males in the UK (31 million males and 32.2 million females), an excess of females over males of ~3.9%.

Why the Excess Male Deaths?

This is a big question. Some of the answers are provided in the sub-topics within The UK Way of Death, follow the link above for a summary. What is clear is that the excess male deaths cannot simply be attributed to biology. That behaviours come into the explanation is obvious from the very marked excess, as a percentage, for young men. The various causes of deaths discussed in the sub-topics within The UK Way of Death provide some of the multiplicity of reasons for the excess male deaths, some of which are certainly related to societal disadvantage or discrimination.

One issue can be exposed immediately: the excess deaths are related to socioeconomic class (see below). The greater the educational or economic disadvantage of a subset of society, the greater is the excess of male deaths over female deaths. Conversely, in areas of greater wealth men can locally exceed the life expectancy of women, effectively proving the contention that the general trend of poorer male life expectancy is the result of socioeconomic disadvantage.

Socioeconomic Class and Excess Male Deaths in London

Investigative journalists Dan Bell and Emma Slater obtained data on longevity disparities in London boroughs in 2012. They discovered that men in the more deprived parts of London were living up to 17 years less than those living in the wealthier boroughs. The bulk of this socioeconomic disadvantage is gendered. In one London ward, Cathedrals, in Southwark, they found that women live on average 12.72 years longer than men. In 41 of London’s 623 wards, the life expectancy difference for men and women is over twice the national average. In 30 wards the difference was in excess of 8.6 years.

You might expect that these observations would motivate particular attention to men’s health issues, but no – the Health Care and Research Spend on men is far less than on women, including the spend by the Primary Care Trusts in the above London boroughs.

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