Why Women Around the World Are Living Longer

Women around the world are living longer than ever — and with some relatively easy adjustments, could live even longer, according to a recent report.

The World Health Organization found that more women are living to the age of 50 years old and beyond. When it comes to the older population, 53 percent of people over the age of 50 are women. When you look at those over the age of 70, the female population becomes an even more outsized at 59 percent.

Many poor and middle-income countries can make some pretty big strides in pushing life expectancy even further via routine screenings and preventative care.

According to the report, the major killers of women are heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Dr. John R. Beard, director of the WHO's department of aging, says that focusing on fairly simple fixes — like lowering blood pressure and conducting screenings for cervical cancer and breast cancer — could seriously help women in poorer nations.

In addition to dealing with medical problems early on, doctors want women around the world to concentrate on helping themselves by reducing obesity, not smoking cigarettes, and avoiding heavy drinking.

So how did individual countries perform? In most nations, women are living longer than they did 40 years ago. Japanese women live the longest averaging about age 86, according to the WHO report. But women in other countries faced some pretty serious and specific medical threats: In South Africa the AIDS epidemic continues, threatening the welfare of both men and women. Russian women are still dealing with a lack of healthcare after the collapse of their healthcare system. And Mexican women are seeing increased cases of lung cancer and obesity-related diabetes as the countries becomes wealthier — pick up more life-threatening vices like smoking and poor eating.

The increase in longevity is largely due to medical advancements for the treatment of illnesses like pneumonia, the flu, and tuberculosis.

The report also noted the need for changing views about sex among the older population in order to combat the spread of sexually transmitted infections. “To some extent, we treat women as vessels of reproduction, and once they’ve done that we don’t pay much attention to them,” Beard said.