Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sex differences in human lifespan are also true in other mammals

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In human populations, women live longer than men. All species mammalian females also live longer than males, but there are no sex differences in the rate of aging. Males and females age at the same degree. Demographic data from 101 species shows that the female’s median lifespan is, on average, 18.6% longer than that of males of the same species. However, the difference is very variable across species, meaning other factors need to be considered to explain this variability. In humans, the female advantage is, on average, 7.8%. For example, nine out of 10 people who live to be 110 years old are female.

Females have two X chromosomes, while males have an X and a Y. The theory is that the extra X in women has a protective effect against harmful mutations and that this holds true in other species. Nevertheless, the cause for the long life of females is probably an interaction between environmental conditions and sex-specific genetic variations. For example, males devote more resources towards specific functions (such as mating, fighting) compared with females. 

There is hope for men after all; the risks of dying are not increasing more in males than females as they get older. Although male mortality is always higher, the rate of dying is about the same in both genders as they age.

Read the whole article in PNAS:

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