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Lifestyle Factors Linked to Increased Longevity in Women

Expert raises concerns about the disparity in longevity between men and women, highlighting its underlying causes and implications for healthcare policies.

Men, often engaging in riskier behaviors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, may experience shorter lifespans compared to women, who benefit from protection against various diseases due to the hormone estrogen. According to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia public health medicine specialist Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, while variations exist across countries, the trend of women outliving men is a global phenomenon observed in Malaysia and the wider ASEAN region.

This trend is supported by 2023 data from the Statistics Department, which indicates that Malaysian men generally have a shorter lifespan, averaging 72.5 years, compared to women who typically average 77.4 years.

“In recent years, trends have shown slight fluctuations in the average lifespan of men. It was recorded at 72.5 years in 2019, slightly decreasing to 71.8 in 2021 before returning to 72.5 in 2023. Conversely, the average lifespan of women has remained relatively stable, standing at 77.4 years in 2019, dipping to 76.5 in 2021, and rebounding to 77.4 in 2023,” Sharifa explained.

She highlighted that the observed disparity raises concerns regarding its underlying causes and the implications it holds for public health and healthcare policies. Sharifa added that biological factors play a significant role in these disparities, as women naturally produce estrogen, which notably protects them against cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death among men.

“However, elevated levels of testosterone in men are associated with increased risks of certain diseases, including prostate cancer and aggression, which can affect their life expectancy in cases of violence,” Sharifa explained.

She referenced World Bank data indicating that men were nearly twice as likely to engage in “binge drinking” and are more prone to smoking, heightening their susceptibility to diseases such as cancer, thereby shortening their lifespan.

Sharifa also pointed out gender disparities in healthcare service utilization, noting that women tend to access a broader range of health services, particularly those related to reproductive health. This includes regular attendance at antenatal and postnatal care clinics.

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