ITEM The more industrialized a society becomes, the more both sexes’ life expectancies increase. But industrialization increases women’s life expectancy roughly twice as much as men’s.7

In preindustrialized societies (e. g., Italy and Ireland in the nineteenth century), a gap of only one to two years between the life spans of women and men was common.8 When Robert Kennedy, Jr., examined his heritage, he found that rural Irishwomen around the turn of the century had a life expectancy that was actually lower than men’s.10 Women who lived in the countryside died more than men from tuberculosis, diphtheria, pneumo­nia, measles, heart disease, burns, and scalds.11 When women moved to the

Male-female ratio of age-adjusted death rates for the fifteen leading causes

of death9*

Rank"

Cause

Male to Female

1

Heart disease

1.9 to 1

2.

Cancerous cysts

1.5 to 1

3.

Cerebrovascular diseases

1.2 to 1

4.

Accidents and adverse effects

2.7 to 1

5.

Obstructive lung disease

2.0 to 1

6.

Pneumonia and influenza

1.8 to 1

7.

Diabetes mellitus

11 to 1

8.

Suicide

3.9 to 1

9

Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis

2.3 to 1

10.

Hardening of the arteries

1.3 to 1

11.

Inflammation of the kidneys

1.5 to 1

12.

Homicide

2.0 to 1

13.

Blood infections

1.4 to 1

14.

Deaths around the time of birth***

1.3 to 1

15.

AIDS

9.1 to 1

The original chan wkh the technical names of the diseases is in the endnote.

‘•Rank based on number of deaths

•••Inasmuch as deaths from this cause occur among infants, ratios are based on infant mortality rates rather than on age adjusted death rates.

cities, as they did in England in the early 1800s, their death rate declined by more than a third.12 What happened?

When women and men have approximately equal life expectancies, it seems to be because women die not only in childbirth (fewer than thought) but about equally from contagious, parasitic diseases; poor sanitation and water; inadequate health care, and diseases of malnutrition. In industrial­ized societies, early deaths are caused more by diseases triggered by stress, which breaks down the immune system. It is since stress has become the key factor that men have died so much sooner than women.