Background: The life expectancy gap has widened – and narrowed – considerably before.
At the turn of the 20th century, women’s life expectancy was just two years higher than men’s, Dr. Yan said. But over the next 75 years, that gap began to widen, largely because more men smoked and developed cardiovascular disease or lung cancer.
As smoking rates have declined, excess mortality has declined among men, in particular.
But in 2010, that gender gap began to widen again, this time due to opioid overdose death rates, which exceeded 30 percent. twice as high for men. That year, life expectancy for men was 76.3 years, while that for women was 78.1 years.
Men were at greater risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, and also faced higher rates of homicide and suicide.
The results: Covid has caused huge declines in life expectancy across the board.
In the United States, more than 1.1 million people have died from Covid, a staggering toll that has caused a precipitous decline in life expectancy. Between 2019 and 2021, life expectancy in the United States increased from approximately 79 to 76 years.
But men died from Covid at a higher rate than women. The reasons for this are complicated. Biological factors, such as differences in inflammation and immune responses, likely played an important role.
But social and behavioral differences also matter. Men are more likely to work in sectors with higher rates of Covid exposure and death, including transportation, agriculture and construction, or to be incarcerated or homeless. Women are also more likely to be vaccinated.
From 2019 to 2021, Covid was the largest contributor to the growing life expectancy gap between men and women, contributing to almost 40% of the difference in years lost.
Overdose and homicide deaths have also increased.
Unintentional injuries – primarily drug overdoses – contributed to more than 30 percent of the life expectancy gap between men and women. But more men also died by homicide or suicide between 2019 and 2021.
“All of this points to worsening mental health across the board, but particularly among men,” Dr. Yan said.
Dr. Yan noted that his analysis did not include people who are transgender or other gender identities because death certificates do not record this information.