Male Life Expectancy: How Men Can Add Years to Their Lives

From the second men are born they are inherently more likely to live shorter lives than women.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the men’s life expectancy at birth was 75.1 years in the first half of 2020, down from 76.3 years in 2019.  

The life expectancy for women in 2020 declined by just 0.9 years compared to 2019, dipping from 81.4 years to 80.5 years.  

A lot of factors contribute to this gap. For instance, the CDC reports that men are almost two times likelier to binge drink than women. The same organization also reports that women are 33% more likely to visit the doctor than men, and women are 100% percent better at maintaining screening and preventive care.  

But gender is far from the only factor that determines how long a person lives.   

What factors contribute to life expectancy?

There are many social, behavioral, and biological factors that can lead to a shortened or extended lifespan, including:   

  • Diet and nutrition 
  • Education  
  • Employment choices or opportunities (In 2020, there were 4,377 male occupational injury deaths in the United States compared to 387 among women) 
  • Environmental factors 
  • Exercise  
  • Genetics 
  • Health care access 
  • Hygiene  
  • Lifestyle 

How can men add years to their life?

Don’t smoke cigarettes or binge drink: Smoking and excessive drinking fall under the “lifestyle” category listed above. Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers, per the CDC. Meanwhile, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that between 65,000 and 70,000 men die from alcohol-related causes each year, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the country. Tobacco is the first.  

Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly: Adult men should get about 2 to 3 hours of moderate exercise a week, plus at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week. However, it is important not to go overboard. The phrase “everything in moderation” surely applies to exercise. Studies show that extreme exercise is associated with premature aging of the heart.  

Meanwhile, a healthy diet should consist of plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk, while also including a variety of protein-rich foods, like lean meats, nuts, and seeds.  

Conversely, staying away from foods that are processed and chockful of added sugars, sodium, and cholesterol is key. Red meat should be eaten in moderation, as it is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Evidence also suggests red meat is associated with some other cancers, such as prostate and pancreatic cancer. 

Build and maintain strong social relationships: Taking care of your body is paramount, but there is also a link between mental self-care and life expectancy. Healthy relationships with family, friends, and/or a significant other can have a protective effect on health.  

People with more social ties tend to live longer than those without them. One study with nearly 7,000 subjects found the mortality rate of men with the fewest social ties to be 2.3 times higher than that of men with the most ties.  

Take advantage of educational opportunities: Adults with higher educational attainment have better health and lifespans compared to their less educated peers. Even if you didn’t do well in school as a teen, consider taking advantage of educational opportunities available to you as an adult.  

Keep up with visits to your primary care provider: It is crucial that men regularly visit their primary care provider. Overall, men are more likely than women to develop heart disease. Additionally, about 1 in every 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Get ahead of potentially life-threatening conditions like these by staying on top of screenings and preventative care visits or procedures.  

Photo credit: Getty Images

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