Intended for healthcare professionals


Life expectancy: women now on top everywhere

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 06 April 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:808
  1. Anna Barford, research fellow,
  2. Danny Dorling, professor of human geography (,
  3. George Davey Smith, professor of clinical epidemiology,
  4. Mary Shaw, reader in medical sociology
  1. Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN
  2. Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PR

    During 2006, even in the poorest countries, women can expect to outlive men

    “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”

    Timothy Leary (1920-1996)

    The year 2006 should not be allowed to pass without at least a quiet celebration that this is the first year in human history when—across almost all the world—women can expect to enjoy a longer life expectancy than men. That the trend is moving in this direction will probably be confirmed this week in the 2006 world health report.

    In its world health report of 2002, the World Health Organization, using data for 2001, reported that male life expectancy exceeded female life expectancy in only six countries: Nepal, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Bangladesh, and Swaziland.1 A year later, the situation seemed to have reversed in all six countries, with two other countries (Qatar and the Maldives) reporting that men were living slightly longer than women.2 In its …

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