According to many studies, differences between death rates of both men and women have been observed in all age groups – infants, adolescents, and adults. Sheri L. Balsara, lead author of a study on pediatric mortality wrote, “Our analysis of the gender difference in mortality among persons under 20 years of age suggests the existence of a ‘male syndrome’. We observed an overall female survival advantage that starts early in life and exists across many diverse causes of mortality.”
In reality, the difference has been discerned even before birth. Although, more babies born are male – 51.2% in most industrialized countries where 105 boys are born for every 100 girls – male fetuses suffer from a higher mortality rate at every stage of gestation except the 24th week.
When talked about adult men and women, the most common causes of death that come to mind are cancers, heart attacks, diabetes or some other disease. On the other hand, health disparities between children of the two genders are generally considered a result of accidents, homicide or suicide. However, recent studies have shown that men have a higher death rate from conditions as varied as cancer, lung and respiratory infections, cardiac problems and other mental or physical abnormalities.
Statistics show that men, age 20 or under, are 44% more likely than females to die from any given cause. The difference is not only in the death rates but also the susceptibility of diseases. Males have a higher probability of getting diagnosed with conditions like autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, asthma and hearing problems like tinnitus or complete hearing loss.
According to a research study by the Vermont Department of Mental Health, boys tend to be at a biological disadvantage, developing emotional and behavioral problems at a younger age as compares to females. In children ages 4-7 who underwent “severe emotional disturbances”, 91% were boys, and for the age group above 16, 65% were found to be male.
As per Balsara, “In each 5-year-span age group, males are at significantly greater risk and the number of males who died… exceeded the number of females by thousands”. Her 10-year study showed that during the decade 111000 more young males died than females.
A definitive reason behind the disparity isn’t known yet, however, different people have different opinions. According to some researchers, “Male infants, children, adolescents, and young adults experience an elevated risk of mortality compared with females. This excess mortality is attributable to a wide variety of conditions, and this effect appears to be due to elevated risk both of contracting high-mortality conditions and, once afflicted, dying of these conditions.”
Another study suggested that “male individuals die earlier because their adventurous nature exposes them to accidents and falls”, however, genetic and hormonal differences must be observed before making a definitive statement.
According to Chris Feudtner, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, males might be more vulnerable to certain diseases that lead to a higher death rate, or maybe it’s the opposite. He said, “This could be a story of resilience and ability to overcome. Maybe there’s some robustness factor that males are missing.”