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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Twentieth century surge of excess adult male mortality.

  • Author(s): Beltrán-Sánchez, Hiram
  • Finch, Caleb E
  • Crimmins, Eileen M
  • et al.

Using historical data from 1,763 birth cohorts from 1800 to 1935 in 13 developed countries, we show that what is now seen as normal-a large excess of female life expectancy in adulthood-is a demographic phenomenon that emerged among people born in the late 1800s. We show that excess adult male mortality is clearly rooted in specific age groups, 50-70, and that the sex asymmetry emerged in cohorts born after 1880 when male:female mortality ratios increased by as much as 50% from a baseline of about 1.1. Heart disease is the main condition associated with increased excess male mortality for those born after 1900. We further show that smoking-attributable deaths account for about 30% of excess male mortality at ages 50-70 for cohorts born in 1900-1935. However, after accounting for smoking, substantial excess male mortality at ages 50-70 remained, particularly from cardiovascular disease. The greater male vulnerability to cardiovascular conditions emerged with the reduction in infectious mortality and changes in health-related behaviors.

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