TeeJaw Blog

Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men?

Posted in Culture by TeeJaw on Friday, January 21, 2011, 10: 25 PM

It might be because they are tougher. It may be that women are biologically better able to withstand adverse conditions, resistance to disease, trauma, hunger, cold weather, etc. We are conditioned to believe just the opposite, that men are the strong sex and women the weaker. But toughness is not the same as strength. Toughness can make you live longer, strength only allows you to lift heavier objects and unscrew lids.

The survival statistics of the Donner party are that over three times as many men as women died when the party was trapped in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1846-47. There were 82 (some accounts say 83) that were trapped, 37 died and 45 survived. Of those that died at least 28 were men and 8 were women. [that leaves one unaccounted for, I know that. Add that one to whichever you like, it won’t matter. Every account I read has a different answer for it.] Twenty men and 25 women survived.

There are all sorts of theories about why so many more men than women died. Some say the men spent all their energy taking care of the women. Others say age differences were a factor. I’m skeptical of those explanations because under those conditions no one gets to take it easy. Survival of that ordeal would have been a full time effort for every individual. Unless you’ve been in the Sierra Nevada in the winter you might not appreciate it. The snow seems to never stop, the temperature seems to never rise a single degree, the wind seems to never slow. It must have been utter hell (without the heat). Of course, no one alive today can fully appreciate being there with only mid-19th century technology.

The Donner party is but one survival story among many in which men die in greater numbers than women. For species survival this makes sense. Male deaths are less threatening to the survival of any species than female deaths. Hardier females ensure the survival of the next generation. Nature can afford to be indifferent as to whether males survive beyond sexual maturity, so it is.

I’m staying alive. Mrs. TeeJaw doesn’t want to be alone. She can’t get the lid off the jelly jar.

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