American women are outliving men by 6 years since pandemic. But why?

A patient is monitored in the operating room as doctors and nurses prepare for surgery in the Lyon Croix-Rousse Hospital in France on September 26, 2023.

The life expectancy gap between women and men in the United States expanded to 5.8 years between 2010 and 2021, the biggest difference in longevity between the sexes in decades, according to a new report. 

Researchers found that American women can expect to live around six years longer than men, citing disparities from COVID-19 and drug overdose deaths as some of the reasons driving the biggest gap since 1996.

The study, published Monday in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, examined how COVID-19 and other underlying causes of death widened the gap from 2010 to 2021.

While distinct cardiovascular and lung cancer death rates have long been prime explanations for why women outlive men in the U.S., researchers said other leading causes of death are responsible and that multiple factors are widening the gap.  

Lung cancer survival is up.But screening is low for deadliest form of cancer in US

COVID-19 became the largest drivers for life expectancy gap

Tomecka Wilkes points out a photo of her father, Charles Stewart, as a senior at Rufus King High School in 1974 and a more recent image, as she visits her father's grave site at Graceland Cemetery in Milwaukee on March 15, 2023. Wilkes lost her father to COVID on April 12, 2020, before a vaccine was available.

For U.S. men between 2010 and 2019, higher mortality rates for diabetes, heart disease, unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide were the main drivers for the life expectancy gap. Part of the gap was minimized by similar mortality rates between men and women from cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

But differences in mortality rates from COVID-19 became the leading reason the gap widened between men and women during the pandemic, which began in 2020.

Read More:American women are outliving men by 6 years since pandemic. But why?