Women 'more likely to survive life-threatening situation'

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It is striking that during epidemics and famines as harsh as those analysed here, newborn girls still survived better than newborn boys'.

In a study of seven periods of history during which disasters led to the deaths of large swaths of the population, scientists at the University of Southern Denmark discovered time and time again that women were more likely than men to survive.

Researchers feel that difference in sex hormones makes women biologically hardier as oestrogen is known to protect the vascular system and testosterone increases risk for fatal diseases.

The study findings appear in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But a new study reveals that it's women who are strong and are more likely to survive a life threatening crisis than men.

Scientists at Duke University set out to measure the impact of starvation, disease and other hardships on mortality rates among human populations over the last 250 years.

They included the 1845 Irish potato starvation, deadly measles epidemics in Iceland in 1842 and 1882 as well as the survival rates of slaves in Trinidad in 1813.

Life expectancy for both sexes dropped from 38 years, to 18.7 years for men and 22.4 years for women during the crisis, which claimed about one million lives.

They found that more than 40 per cent of freed American slaves who were relocated to Liberia in West Africa in the 1800s died from tropical diseases during their first year.

Across modern populations, women outlive men in nearly all instances, with life expectancy for English women being 83.1 years, compared to 79.5 years for men (the figure for Scotland is 81.2 years for women and 77.1 years for men).

The researchers found that, in all the populations, women had lower mortality across nearly all ages, and with one exception, women lived longer on average than men.

In Europe, the life expectancy of a group of people living in Ireland was cut short by more than 15 years due to an extensive crop failure.

Girls born during the starvation that struck Ukraine in 1933, for example, lived to 10.85, and boys to 7.3 - a 50 percent difference.

And biological differences between the sexes, could also help explain why women are more resilient, the scientists said.

"Our results add another piece to the puzzle of gender differences in survival", the researchers said. Estrogens, for example, have been shown to enhance the body's immune defenses against infectious disease.

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