With the threat of nuclear war with North Korea looming over our heads, you better keep women close – not because they need protecting, but because they are the only ones who are getting you out alive. New research in 2018 has shown that women are more likely to survive a life-threatening crisis than men, which is news to literally no one who's ever actually been a woman.
Anyone who's ever witnessed the beloved fairer sex suffer through a dreaded "man cold" knows that women are stronger than men. Reese Witherspoon said it best at the Glamour Women of Year Awards when she proclaimed, "Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don't they tell people in crisis, even children, 'If you're in trouble, talk to a woman?'" Now, science backs it up. Around the world, female life expectancy squashes that of their male counterparts, but the reason why women live longer might just surprise you.
Females have a number of survival advantages. As a sex that's been notoriously ridiculed for being weaker and more fragile, it turns out that the very fabric of their being is inherently stronger from birth. Women who survive don't just win out in the best case scenario; they win across the board. From disease to famine to slavery to simply putting up with trolls on the internet, women are natural-born survivors who thrive in the bleakest circumstances - again, tell us something history hasn't.
So, before you ridicule a woman for sitting around and enjoying the stereotypically masculine pleasures of sipping on a glass of aged whiskey with a good Netflix true crime documentary, for enjoying the shallow beast that is a Real Housewives of Orange County marathon, or for simply voicing her grievances at a celebrity's hyper-aggressive sexual behavior, know that she could probably kick your butt.
Researchers examined data from the past 250 years that spanned seven populations in situations so dire the life expectancy for both sexes was less than 20 years. This included everything from the Irish Potato Famine to the measles epidemics of 1846 and 1882.
The most extreme portion of data included was the information surrounding freed slaves in Liberia. In the 1800s, Liberia experienced the highest mortality rates ever recorded when freed American slaves relocated to West Africa. Over 40 percent of the liberated slaves died in the first year from tropical diseases and babies struggled to reach their second birthday. Across the board, women were the most likely to survive.
If the world ever goes all 28 Days Later, it's a safe bet that women will be surviving the zombie apocalypse, at least compared to their brothers, boyfriends, husbands, and any other male acquaintances. Women regularly outlive men when it comes to the harrowing reality of being hit with some of the deadliest diseases on the planet.
Researchers delved into data from the 1882 measles epidemic in Iceland to find that ladies lasted 2.1 years longer than men when things went viral. During this period, women lived to be an average of 18.8 years old, but men only lived to be an average of 16.7 years old. Overall, this was pretty grim considering the life expectancy was about 44 years for women and 38 years for men prior to the outbreak, but it does prove that women showed greater resilience.
If you're facing intense famine (perhaps after our crops are destroyed by radioactive soil), you're a little bit luckier if you're a woman. Researchers found the women outlive men when food is scarce.
The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the way the Irish Potato Famine affected the life expectancy of men and women. The famine began in 1846 when a fungus-like blight infected Ireland's largest crop. The outbreak was widespread until 1851 and claimed about a million lives during its five years of destruction. On average, women lived 3.7 years longer than men in these dire circumstances.
It wasn't only women who fared better; girls did, too. During the 1933 Ukrainian famine, newborn girls lived to be an average of 10.85 years old, while newborn boys only made it to an average of 7.3 years.
A 2018 female survival advantage study from Germany and Denmark showed that women survived longer in times of famine and disease. It also showed at the root of the sex's ramped-up life expectancy was the resilience of newborn baby girls. Across the board, infant mortality was higher for boys than it was for girls. This was in spite of the fact that parental attitudes historically preferred male offspring (it wasn't the firstborn daughter that was threatened by the plagues of Egypt; it was the firstborn son). In some cases, families were more willing to seek out treatment and food for their sons, who were responsible for continuing the family name.
"It is even more remarkable that, despite a potential discrimination against them, baby girls survived more [than baby boys]," said Virginia Zarulli, the study's lead author and assistant professor at the Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark.
On top of that, pregnant women are more likely to give birth to girls when a crisis strikes. A study revealed a dip in the ratio of male-to-female births during a famine in the country of Shige Song. Experts aren't exactly sure why there'd be more baby girls, but some believe that baby boys are an inherent genetic gamble. Food is scarce; girls are resilient; and as a result, your body makes sure to give you a daughter if times are tough.