22 July 2004

Three Men Die For Every Woman

Did you know that 3 men die for every woman during the years between adolescence and adulthood?

Even here in the Philippines, you will observe and probably will encounter more widows than widowers.

In the US, men had higher death rates than women for all 11 leading causes of death. The biggest differences between male and female mortality rates were for suicide, then homicide, followed by non-automobile accidents and then automobile accidents.

Researchers from the University of Michigan led by Daniel Kruger, a social psychologist, say that "men may be taking greater risks in their general health care (as in eating too many meat products, smoking too many cigarettes and drinking too many beers) that makes them more vulnerable to disease later in life." But the culprit could also be due to an unavoidable factor beyond men's control like testosterone, the hormone that promotes aggressive, competitive behavior and which also plays a role in immune suppression.

Observational studies have shown that infectious diseases kill twice as many men than women in developed countries and 4 times as many in less developed countries.

There are theories that suggest that evolution designed men to expend more energy on fighting other males (for women, of course) than fighting disease. This event of course, have placed them at higher risk, but what the heck, winning and having more females may have been an excellent tradeoff. Survival of the species had always been the programming, and this ensures more and more humans will be born.

Present data and statistics suggest that evolutionary behavior does not always work well for modern men in modern times and that, argues Kruger, merits some attention.

The real problem with men is evolution: The female bears the main responsibility for nurturing and raising children. That makes them picky about the men they choose as mates. Virility is tested when men engage in displays of sexual fitness like risk taking and competitive displays such as combat.

But in the present day, sexual displays may not be the best way to attract a sex partner. However, the genetic urge toward risk taking drives men to behaviors that increase their risk of death in 3 ways:
One, men are more likely to die as a result of injuries due to risky behavior.
Two, men are more likely to die of diseases brought about by risk-taking behavior such as smoking, drinking, and poor diet.

And three, men die more often than women by (drumroll...) suicide.
On a broader view, "16 men die prematurely for every 10 premature female deaths," Kruger says.

What can be done?

Kruger suggests that male mortality rates be reduced to those for females, so that 1/3rd of all male deaths under age 50 would be eliminated.

But who are we kidding?
"Since these deaths result from complex interactions of sex, behavior, and culture, simple solutions are unlikely." [WebMD Health report]

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