Healthy Aging Do Women or Men Age Faster and Better? A Look at Hormones, Bodily Changes, and Life Expectancy By Mark Stibich, PhD Mark Stibich, PhD LinkedIn Twitter Mark Stibich, PhD, FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 17, 2022 Learn more</a>." data-inline-tooltip="true"> Medically reviewed Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Jason DelCollo, DO Medically reviewed by Jason DelCollo, DO Jason DelCollo, DO, board-certified in family medicine. He is associate faculty at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine as well as adjunct faculty with the Crozer Family Medicine Residency Program, and is an attending physician at Glen Mills Family Medicine in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Expert Board Print Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Life Expectancy Healthcare Appearance Sex Hormones Sexual Function Brain Aging Other Factors Centenarians and Aging Frequently Asked Questions Females, overall, live longer than males. But who ages faster? Who ages better? A lot of variables go into life expectancy and how you look, feel, and function as you age. This article explores the differences in aging between the two most common sexes, considering life expectancy, appearance, healthcare use, hormones, sexual function, and brain aging. MoMo Productions/Stone/Getty Images Beyond Male and Female Sex and gender exist on spectrums. However, the studies cited in this article have looked only at cis males and cis females. It's difficult to extrapolate from them how being trans or elsewhere on the sex/gender spectrum would affect your life expectancy, overall health, and experience of aging—especially if you've had hormone therapy and/or fully transitioned. Life Expectancy It's a simple fact that, almost everywhere in the world, females live longer than males. Experts have different theories for this. One theory is that males die younger because they often participate in more dangerous activities and tend to have more dangerous occupations, like being in the armed forces. Statistially, that explains some, but not all, of the differences. POPULATION LIFE EXPECTANCY All Americans 77.8 years Males 75.1 years Females 80.5 years Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthcare Another theory is that females are more likely to go to healthcare providers for preventive care or when something might be wrong. That means their medical problems may be diagnosed earlier, giving them a better chance of recovering. If this theory is accurate, seeing their healthcare providers more often may help males live longer. Cancer Screenings Regardless of your biological sex, you need screening for cancers that affect your reproductive organs. The tool at Healthfinder.gov shows what's recommended for you. Appearance It's a stereotype that men age "better" than women. However, there is some science behind this. It has to do with collagen, a protein found in skin and connective tissues. It's what makes your skin elastic, which is associated with how young you look. The human body loses collagen as it ages, which is why skin takes on a different appearance. Males lose collagen earlier and more consistently throughout life. Females tend to keep more until menopause, when they lose it at a dramatic rate. So while males slowly, gradually look older, females have a more marked change in how old they look. Sex Hormones Sex hormones affect how you age. Both male and female hormones decline as you get older. It's a bit misleading to label hormones as male or female, as everyone has some of each type, but at varying levels determined by biological sex. Androgens Male hormones are called androgens. The primary androgen—testosterone—helps regulate muscle mass, bone mass, and overall physical function. As it drops off, you naturally become weaker and less able to perform physical feats. It's also tied to: Increased belly fatBalance problemsHigher fall riskMore frequent injuries Additionally, it can contribute to chronic conditions such as: Obstructive sleep apneaDepressionObesityChronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)Type 2 diabetesKidney and liver disease The more testosterone levels drop in males, the shorter the lifespan. In females, androgens play a role in the production of estrogens, which are the primary female hormones. So declining androgen levels lead to declining estrogen levels. They're also linked to: Impaired sexual functionLessened physical performanceWeight gainCognitive declinesEmotional changesBone loss Researchers still have much to learn about the role of testosterone on female health. Estrogens For most of their lives, females have about four times more estrogens than males. In females, estrogens are responsible for: Development of reproductive organsGrowth of the uterine lining (endometrium)Sexual and reproductive functionHow your body uses carbohydrates and other fats In males and females, estrogens: Lower the inflammatory response to injuriesMay protect against oxidative stress, which is believed to contribute to many chronic illnessesProtect against muscle damage and promote muscle repairEnhance growth and recovery of cellsPlay a role in muscle strength and nervous system healthMaintain bone health All of these functions decline as estrogen production drops. In males, that happens gradually. Meanwhile, during the first year of menopause, females lose about 80% of their estrogen production. Once again, males make slow progress toward the problems of advancing age while post-menopausal females take a dramatic step. Sexual Function Given the close ties between sex hormones and sexual function, it should come as no surprise that male sexuality changes slowly while female sexuality changes significantly after menopause. The common belief that male sexuality peaks at 18 and female sexuality peaks much later is true. Male testosterone levels are highest at 18 and then steadily drop for the next several decades. For females, sexual desire increases just before estrogen levels (and fertility) begin to drop. This generally starts in the late 20s and continues until perimenopause (the hormonal shift that happens before menstrual cycles stop), which is generally in the 30s or 40s. Males and females both see drops in sexual interest in their 50s because of physical changes due largely to hormones. That can lead to: Erectile dysfunction Less male ejaculate Vaginal dryness Less orgasmic pleasure Lower overall sexual function Even so, sex drive and sexual function generally remain strong through the 50s. For many people, serious declines in sexual desire and performance come in their 60s or later. Importance of Sex In one study, 40% of woman over 60 had a low sex drive but still said sex was an important aspect of their lives. What to Expect From Your Sex Life as You Age Brain Aging Brain aging is also different for males and females. Everyone's brain shrinks with age, and the brain's metabolism slows down, as well. In both cases, changes appear to happen faster to the male brain. According to a 2019 study, the average male brain is about three years older than the average female brain. Cognitive impairment appears to have different causal factors for males and females, as well. It's more common in men who: Are overweightHave diabetesHave had a stroke It's more common in females who: Are dependent on others for daily tasksLack a strong social network While researchers can make these generalities, they note that the course of natural brain aging varies significantly from one person to the next. Other Factors Many other factors affect your lifespan plus how you look, feel, and function as you age. They include: GeneticsNutritionLifestyle (socioeconomic status, sleep quality, physical activity levels, etc.)Environment (where you work, where you live, the amount of pollution you're exposed to, etc.) Of those, genetics is the only one you can't change. To improve the others, start by talking to your healthcare provider about what healthy changes you can make. Centenarians and Aging People who live to the age of 100 or beyond are called centenarians. Studies suggest females are more likely than males to live that long. Among centenarians, research has found some sex-based differences: 24% of male centenarians and 43% of female centenarians are “survivors.” (They survived at least one age-related illness before age 80.)32% of males and 15% of females are "escapers." (They haven't had any major health conditions.)44% of males and 42% of females are "delayers." (They didn't have any major diagnoses until after age 80.) Males who make it to 100 are much more likely to have escaped age-related health issues, while female centenarians appear better able to endure long-term illness. Summary When it comes to different aspects of aging, males fare better in some regards and females do better in others. Females tend to have longer lives (even making it to 100 more often), a "younger" brain age, and more frequent visits to healthcare providers, which may mean diagnosing illnesses earlier. In appearance and sexual function, males tend to have slow, gradual declines. Females tend to have rapid declines after menopause. Many factors influence how you age. Some of them are out of your control, such as genetics and declining hormone levels. Others—including nutrition, lifestyle, and environment—you may be able to change. Frequently Asked Questions Do men age better than women? Males tend to hold on to a more youthful appearance longer than females. This is because they lose collagen—a protein in skin that keeps it hydrated and elastic—more gradually. Learn More: Collagen Supplements How much longer do women live than men? In the U.S., females live around five years longer than males. According to the National Vital Statistics System, female's life expectancy is 80.5 years, while male's is 75.1 years. Learn More: How Healthy Life Expectancy Is Calculated Why do women live longer than men? Researchers believe behavior and hormones play a role in lifespan differences. For example, males are statistically more likely than females to smoke and engage in other risky behavior. In addition, higher estrogen levels may help females combat heart disease and higher cholesterol levels. Learn More: 10 Simple Steps to Increase Life Expectancy 7 Steps for Disease Prevention and Healthy Living 15 Sources Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Provisional life expectancy estimates for January through June 2020. Kelsey TW, Li LQ, Mitchell RT, Whelan A, Anderson RA, Wallace WH. A validated age-related normative model for male total testosterone shows increasing variance but no decline after age 40 years [published correction appears in PLoS One. 2015;10(2):e0117674]. PLoS One. 2014;9(10):e109346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109346 Easton JA, Confer JC, Goetz CD, Buss DM. Reproduction expediting: Sexual motivations, fantasies, and the ticking biological clock. Personality and Individual Differences. 2010;49(5):516-520. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.05.018 Kalra G, Subramanyam A, Pinto C. Sexuality: desire, activity and intimacy in the elderly. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011;53(4):300-306. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.91902 Delamater J. Sexual expression in later life: a review and synthesis. J Sex Res. 2012;49(2-3):125-41. doi:10.1080/00224499.2011.603168 Tufts Medical Center. Aging and sex drive. Goyal MS, Blazey TM, Su Y, et al. Persistent metabolic youth in the aging female brain [published correction appears in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Mar 12;116(11):5198]. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019;116(8):3251-3255. doi:10.1073/pnas.1815917116 Espeland MA, Carmichael O, Yasar S, et al. Sex-related differences in the prevalence of cognitive impairment among overweight and obese adults with type 2 diabetes. Alzheimers Dement. 2018;14(9):1184–1192. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2018.05.015 Fu C, Li Z, Mao Z. Association between social activities and cognitive function among the elderly in China: A cross-sectional study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(2):231. Published 2018 Jan 30. doi:10.3390/ijerph15020231 Ren J, Zhang Y. Genetics and epigenetics in aging and longevity: Myths and truths. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2019;1865(7):1715-1717. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2019.02.005 Roberts SB, Silver RE, Das SK, et al. Healthy aging-nutrition matters: Start early and screen often [published correction appears in Adv Nutr. 2021 Jul 30;12(4):1597-1598]. Adv Nutr. 2021;12(4):1438-1448. doi:10.1093/advances/nmab032 Dominguez LJ, Veronese N, Vernuccio L, et al. Nutrition, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors in the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia. Nutrients. 2021;13(11):4080. Published 2021 Nov 15. doi:10.3390/nu13114080 Bektas A, Schurman SH, Sen R, Ferrucci L. Aging, inflammation and the environment. Exp Gerontol. 2018;105:10-18. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2017.12.015 Evert J, Lawler E, Bogan H, Perls T. Morbidity profiles of centenarians: survivors, delayers, and escapers. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2003;58(3):232-7. doi:10.1093/gerona/58.3.M232 Population Reference Bureau. Around the globe, women outlive men. Additional Reading Horstman AM, Dillon EL, Urban RJ, Sheffield-Moore M. The role of androgens and estrogens on healthy aging and longevity. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012;67(11):1140-1152. doi:10.1093/gerona/gls068 See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Medical Expert Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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