Are Women Hardier Than Men?

While women are more determined men give up when things get tough

While women are more determined men give up when things get tough

Upon review of three centuries of historical records, Duke University investigators discovered that women do not just outlive men in normal times.

Dr Virginia Zarulli, lead author of the study, said: "Even though the crises reduced the female survival advantage in life expectancy, women still survived better than men".

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark looked at historical data on death rates for both women and men who endured famines - like the Irish potato starvation, the Ukraine starvation and the Swedish starvation - along with disease outbreaks and found that women outlived men nearly every time.

Researchers feel that difference in sex hormones makes women biologically hardier as oestrogen is known to protect the vascular system and testosterone increases risk for fatal diseases.

The researchers, from the Max Planck Institute in Odense, southern Denmark and colleagues reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 'The conditions experienced by the people in the analyzed populations were horrific.

Scientists at Duke University set out to measure the impact of starvation, disease and other hardships on mortality rates among human populations over the last 250 years.

"[Their hypothesis] is supported by the fact that under very harsh conditions females survive better than males even at infant ages when behavioral and social differences may be minimal or favor males", the researchers added.

The data covered seven populations in which people of both sexes had a hard time in 20 years or less, including starvation victims in Sweden, Ireland and Ukraine in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.




Among them were working and former slaves in Trinidad and the United States in the early 1800s, starvation victims in Sweden, Ireland and the Ukraine in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and Icelanders affected by the 1846 and 1882 measles epidemics.

More than 40 percent died during their first year, presumably wiped out by tropical diseases they had little resistance to.

During Sweden's last major starvation, in 1771, abnormal weather resulted in widespread crop failures and life expectancy dropped to 17.15 years for males and 18.79 for females.

In general, the researchers discovered that women lived longer than men by an average of six months to almost four years.

New research suggests women are more resilient than men.

The researchers found that the girls born during the starvation in Ukraine in 1933 had a mortality rate of 10.85, and boys 7.3.

"Most of the female advantage was due to differences in mortality among infants".

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