Why do women live longer than men in Tennessee?

Infant Newborn Baby Generic
(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Women live longer than men, and why that fact may not surprise you, some of the reasons why just might.

News 2’s Anne Holt looked into why Tennessee men die years earlier than women.

“We take everybody whose born and we look at the age they are when they die and divide it by the population to come up with life expectancy,” Dr. John Dreyzehner, the state’s health commissioner.

The formula calculates the average life span of people in Tennessee. Women live to 79.3 years old on average; men live to 70 years.

Graphic: WKRN
Graphic: WKRN

So why do men live shorter lives? The disparities begin at birth.

“Little girls are tougher than little boys,” said Dr. Scott Palmer, who works in a newborn ICU. “They tend to be stronger, have fewer medical conditions that might lead to their early death.”

According to Tennessee’s infant mortality rates, of 562 infant deaths in 2014, 325 were boys. Reducing those numbers is key to increasing life expectancy.

“If someone dies before they are one year old that takes a lot of healthy life years out of that life expectancy calculation,” said Dr. Dreyzehner.

Experts say men ages 15 to 24 are likely to die 4 to 5 times more than women. They cite the negative consequences of a “testosterone surge.”

“Testosterone is associated with increased risky behavior, increase in violence in some cases. So men, especially young men who experience this to a degree, they are more likely to drive recklessly, get into fights and engage in adverse behavior,” Dr. Seth Banks told News 2.

Studies also support the fact that because men internalize their problems, they are less likely to see a doctor once they experience health issues.

“I call it the John Wayne Syndrome where we are taught that pain is wrong, illness is a sign of weakness, therefore, we tend to avoid the doctor,” Dr. Banks said.

Medical check-ups are important for everyone because the number one cause of death in Tennessee is heart disease. Many indicators present no symptoms in the early stages.

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