Study reveals women are biologically stronger than men
A new study has suggested that women are biologically stronger than men, and are more likely to survive life-threatening crisis.
Eleanor Roosevelt once quipped that a woman is like a tea bag. You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
So, the former first lady would most certainly have approved of a new study which suggests women, far from being the weaker sex, are much more likely to survive a life-threatening crisis.
Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark trawled through historic data looking at death rates for men and women who suffered famines and epidemics, or who were sold into slavery.
In virtually every case, they found that women survived their ordeals far longer, often outliving their male counterparts by years, even when conditions were equally dire.
For example, before the Irish Potato Famine, which devastated the country from 1945 to 1949, both men and women lived until they were 38, on average. But at the height of the crisis, although life expectancy dropped to 18.17 for men, it only fell to 22.4 for women.
The same pattern was seen during the Swedish famine of 1772-1773 and the Ukraine harvest failures of 1933. Women also lived longer during two 19th century Icelandic measles outbreaks, with females lasting up to two years longer than men.
Lead author Dr Virginia Zarulli, assistant professor of epidemiology, writing in the journal PNAS said: “The conditions experienced by the people in the analysed populations were horrific.
“Even though the crises reduced the female survival advantage in life expectancy, women still survived better than men.
“We find that even when mortality was very high, women lived longer.
“Most of the female advantage was due to differences in mortality among infants. It is striking that during epidemics and famines as harsh as those analyzed here newborn girls still survived better than newborn boys”
For all populations, far more women also lived to extreme old age than men.
The only exception was in the Trinidadian slave trade, where men outlived women, but the researchers believe that slave traders have a greater incentive to keep male slaves alive, because they were worth more.
The researchers said the results suggest that women are fundamentally biologically ‘hardier’ than men, which may be due to differences in sex hormones.
Oestrogen is a known anti-inflammatory which also protects the vascular system, while testosterone is a risk factor for many fatal diseases. The male sex hormone may also harm the immune system.
Evolutionary scientists believe that women may have a boosted immune system because they need to survive for at least nine months to give birth, whereas a man’s input into reproduction is transitory.