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[Opinion] Women Live Longer

Posted December. 21, 2004 23:04,   


Ms. Jeanne Calment of France is commonly known as the person who lived the longest in the world. Born on February 21, 1875, she lived for 122 years, five months, and two weeks. Married at the age of 21 with one daughter, she outlived her grandson by as long as 37 years. She didn’t maintain a good lifestyle. She ate two pounds of chocolate every week and smoked until the age of 117. She was an optimist. Her motto was “Do not worry about something that you can’t do anything about.”

All across the world, a majority of centenarians are female. Accumulated study so far put males at a disadvantage when it comes to life expectancy both in genetic and environmental terms. Men show high death rates due to accidents or suicides because they have high inclinations of aggression in youth. There are 11 times more women than men in the Korean centenarian population. War is also a reason. Women also have more immune cells than men. There are also reports saying that female hormones are beneficial to prevent heart disease and to restrict the growth of cancer cells.

Allen and Barbara Pease, a couple famous for their study on relationship, find the reason for the short lives of men in the undesirable lifestyle after retirement. Men become enormously stressed after they cease working. The more stressed on the job the man was, the quicker he dies after retirement. After leaving their workplaces, men shrink emotionally and lose vitality as if losing their identities, and then their resistances to disease also weaken. On the other hand, the females’ identities are much more multifaceted than that of males. They are caregivers, mothers, grandmothers, housewives, social butterflies, friends, wives, girlfriends, clergywomen, cooks, and the list goes on and on. There is no such thing as retirement in a multifaceted life of a woman. Even if she quits her job, a more interesting life lies ahead.

Women’s skill in dealing with stress is healthier. Men over-drink, over-eat, and chain-smoke when stressed. Women go shopping or burst into laughter while chatting with neighbors. Laugh a lot and your body produces endorphins to ease pain and strengthen the immune system. Women move their body doing house chores in their later life, which is good for their health. With disadvantaged genetics and undesirable lifestyle, there seems no way for men to outlive women.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com