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Comparative Study
. 2004 Sep;52(4):333-52.
doi: 10.1016/s0398-7620(04)99063-3.

[Gender Gap in Life Expectancy: The Reasons for a Reduction of Female Advantage]

[Article in French]
Affiliations
Comparative Study

[Gender Gap in Life Expectancy: The Reasons for a Reduction of Female Advantage]

[Article in French]
F Meslé. Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. .

Abstract

Background: After a large increase during the 19th and the 20th century, for two decades the gap in life expectancy between sexes has been reducing in most industrialised countries. In France, where it was specially large, it stopped increasing in the early 1980s and decreased in the most recent years. The paper investigates reasons for these recent trends in France and in the industrialised countries.

Methods: Two types of data are used for analysis. Death probabilities from life tables are used for calculating male excess mortality by age and estimating the role of various age groups in life expectancy differences by sex. Sex- and cause-specific mortality rates from INED database for France and from WHO database for other countries are used to assess the part played by various causes of death in the gender gap and its evolution.

Results: In France, the stabilisation of the gap is mainly related to the decrease in cardiovascular mortality for men who benefit from the same progress but later than women. In the most recent years, the reduction of the gap is due to the trend reversal of male cancer mortality which is now decreasing, specially because of the reduction of lung cancer mortality. In European countries, taken as examples (England & Wales, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy) cardiovascular mortality is also the main responsible for the decreasing differences. Conversely, in Japan, the gap is still increasing specially for mortality from cancer and respiratory diseases.

Conclusions: The recent gap narrowing between male and female life expectancy in France is not a specific case. It does not mean that female health situation is worsening but it is related to an acceleration of progress for males. This reduction will most probably go on in the next years, except if females would enjoy dramatic progression in old age mortality.

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