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Women were once depicted as the ‘weaker sex’ – but it turns out that in times of genuine disaster, the reverse is true.
A new study found that women are actually more likely to survive in times of famine, or epidemics.
Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark looked at historical data for men and women who endured famine, disease outbreaks and being sold into slavery.
Women’s life expectancy does not fall to the same level as men, with women outliving men in time of crisis such as Ireland’s Potato Famine.
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At the height of the famine, women’s life expectancy dropped to 22.4 years, while men’s dropped to 18.17.
Similar patterns were observed in other famines such as the Swedish famine of 1772-1773, the researchers say.
Lead author Dr Virginia Zarulli, said, ‘The conditions experienced by the people in the analysed populations were horrific. Even though the crises reduced the female survival advantage in life expectancy, women still survived better than men.
‘We find that even when mortality was very high, women lived longer.
‘Most of the female advantage was due to differences in mortality among infants. It is striking that during epidemics and famines as harsh as those analysed here newborn girls still survived better than newborn boys.’