Women live longer than men because their bodies are better at repairing themselves. In an article in November's Scientific American, Professor Tom Kirkwood of Newcastle University argues that women have to be better at fixing the wear and tear on their cells in order to have healthy offspring.
In interviews last week, Kirkwood said that it made biological sense for men to be more disposable and therefore die younger. The body is disposable, argues Kirkwood, because the genes are passed to the next generation.
"This theory is widely accepted now," Kirkwood says. "Ageing is not driven by a clock."
Having said that it is useful to remind oneself that the longevity gap between the sexes is narrowing. A women's life expectancy has actually been closing in this country and is now 4.2 years (a narrowing from six years over the past 27 years). A boy born today lives to an average 77.7 years, compared with a girl, who would be expected to reach 81.9. The differential is thought to be due to higher rates of heart disease and risk-taking in men; oestrogens have protected women from heart disease.
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