Why the gap will keep widening
By Sola Ogundipe
Unlike in biblical times when men lived to be hundreds of years old and women were left far behind in the biological age race, the tables have been turned today as the men are now trailing the women.
In Nigeria, the average life expectancy at birth in 2021 was 54.69 years according to the World Bank. This equaled 59 years for men and 63 years for women. The World Health Organisation, WHO, is less optimistic, as it puts the average life expectancy in Nigeria over the same period at around 54.5 years, with men living an average of 53.7 years and women living an average of 55.4 years.
From both data, the women outlive the men who have an average lifespan below the national average. This is not particularly surprising because data from previous UN projections show that even before independence in 1960, women had always lived longer than men in Nigeria. It may sound surprising, but the facts are there. Women, even with the comparative disadvantage of their reproductive life cycle, tend to live longer and healthier lives than men.
Lowest life expectancy
But generally, life expectancy at birth in Nigeria is now the lowest in West Africa and among the lowest in Africa and in the world as a whole. [/b]For a number of reasons, [b]the average Nigerian is not living for long or living well when compared to several other African countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia, all of which have better life expectancies.
Combination of factors
Why is this so? Saturday Vanguard gathered that a combination of factors ranging from a high burden of communicable, non-communicable and preventable illnesses are responsible. Also in the complex equation are illiteracy, corruption, poverty, high rate of crime and insecurity, high unemployment rate, stress, and harsh living conditions, among the host of the causes of low life expectancy ratio and the untimely death ratio.
Granted, lifestyles have changed over the years, and life expectancy is also changing – rising slowly but steadily year after year. But one thing that has not changed is the gender gap. Men and women are living longer, but year after year, decade after decade; women continue to live longer than men. In fact, the gender gap is wider now than it was a century ago.
Widening gender gap
This gender gap is not unique to Nigeria. In fact, every country with reliable health statistics reports that women live longer than men. Nevertheless, women appear to be coping better globally than men at staying alive, so it is not unusual that Nigerian women outlive the men, because all over the world, women live longer on average, whether in Africa, America, Europe, or Asia.
On average, women live four or five more years than men, and the reasons may not be too farfetched. Not only do men die at a faster rate than women, but men also die younger. Men are more burdened by lifetime illness than women. On average, a man falls ill at a younger age and has more chronic illnesses than a woman.
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