Europe has biggest life expectancy gender gap in world, says report

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By Chris Harris
Europe has biggest life expectancy gender gap in world, says report

Women in Europe can expect to live a healthy life for five years longer than men, according to a new report.

World Health Organisation (WHO) says females will, on average, live in good health for 70.5 years, compared to just 65.5 years for males.

It is the largest male-female gap in the world, according to how WHO divides up the globe, bigger than the Americas (including USA, the Caribbean and South America), whose gap was 3.8 years, Africa, 2.4 years and South-East Asia, 2.1 years.

Experts say Europe’s disparity is partly down to the inclusion of Russia and other former Soviet countries where high levels of drinking are a factor.

Other findings

  • Swiss men have the highest life expectancy in the world, at 81.3 years
  • Japanese women are forecast to live the longest, to 86.8 years.
  • Globally, children born in 2015 can expect to live for 71.4 years.
  • Sierra Leone has the lowest life expectancy for men and women, 49.3 and 50.8 respectively.

Health chiefs in Brussels are increasingly looking at how long people live healthily, rather than just life expectancy, as this is thought to be a more accurate measure of quality of life in a particular country.

A paper published in the International Journal of Public Health said researchers had observed the biggest gender gaps in EU countries with low life expectancy.

This theory is backed up by Euronews’ analysis of WHO’s figures.

The further east you go in WHO’s Europe region, the bigger the gender gap, when it comes to how long people can expect to live a healthy life.

In Russia, for instance, the gap is 8.7 years, but in western Europe the gaps are much smaller, such as Sweden, where it is just 1.9 years.

Colin Mathers, co-ordinator of mortality and healthy analysis at WHO, told Euronews: “Europe’s big gender difference is basically due to the very large disparities for Russia and some other former Soviet countries.

“This is not so much from young life conditions, but the very high non-communicable disease (cardiovascular/chronic respiratory diseases, cancers and diabetes) and injury mortality in adult men, with high alcohol consumption playing an important role.

“Male-female gaps are low in some high life expectancy countries, such as Sweden, because male risks there are not much higher than that of women.

“However, there are also small gaps in some low income countries too, associated with discrimination against girls and women.

“It partly relates to less investment in health of girls, such as not seeking medical care for those sick, so the normal male disadvantage in child survival is reduced. But it’s also because of higher rates of maternal mortality, intimate partner violence and higher rates of female risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, partly because of less physical activity and greater levels of obesity.”