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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 25, 2007

Are Men the Weakest Link?

By Mark Sisson
7 Comments

Why do women outlive men?

There are plenty of theories about this. The pat answer from the Angry Guys Crowd is often, “Well, duh, we work harder and are more stressed out.” Aw, grow up. I’m certainly not the most politically correct of men, and I think the wave of feminism in the early 90s was pretty tough for a lot of guys to swallow (forever giving that Limbaugh something to rant about). But news flash, guys. Nearly as many women work full-time as men, more women now go to college than men, and if raising kids while simultaneously working a career isn’t stressful, what is?

As the parents of both a teen girl and boy, Carrie and I see very stressful challenges beginning to hit both of them. Let’s be honest: girls are still expected to look attractive, but now they need to be increasingly career-minded and financially savvy, too. Boys have a sharp line to walk – these days, men are also judged by their appearance as well as the traditional “manly” achievements like financial success and social leadership. (That said, still, I don’t see any guy having to deal with the question: “But how will I balance work and family?” This still confronts most women.) This isn’t about me piping up on the politics of feminism, but any guy who still thinks men work harder or are more stressed out needs to take a look around. Men and women both have unique stresses and challenges, and the real issue here is health.

So if it’s not really the level of stress or the 9-to-5 life, why are guys still croaking 5 to 10 years earlier than women? Is it because men go to the doctor less, are taught as boys to ignore pain, take more risks (cars, sports, booze, fights) and eat more junk? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But that’s not all.

Are men still kicking the bucket too early because more money has been diverted in recent years to women’s health? That’s what this article, which inspired this post, questions (it’s a knock-out piece of reporting, so please check it out). But that argument doesn’t pass muster. It might be a factor, but the overwhelming issue here is that men just don’t go to the doctor. For example, every guy knows prostate cancer is a big risk to all men – but we avoid the doctor anyway. I don’t think the fact that more money has finally been spent on women’s breast cancer research is the reason men are dying of prostate cancer or are dying sooner in general. This boys-versus-girls health debate makes for a good news piece on the T.V., but biology is the answer here, not politics.

Even accounting for all possible factors, and even when the odds are fairly and squarely stacked, scientists come up with the same darn result every time: the dudes do not fare well.

Here’s the reason: nature didn’t design us to live as long as women. (Gasp!) Men may be the stronger, tougher sex. We’ve got brute force down cold. We can fight off a pack of wolves like no other – guys, we rock. Unfortunately, we now live in the modern world, where it’s much more desirable and useful to our families for us to live a long time, not fend off roaming wild animals. Guys, when it comes to our biology, we need an update. Man 2.0.

It all goes back to human development (and the article mentioned above explores this nicely, too). It made sense for a man to be stronger and tougher but not long-lived, because men were, frankly, expendable. Yes, men, we are completely replaceable. Little prehistoric tribe loses a guy? No big deal – another guy could easily take his place (in frank reproductive survival terms). One man could ensure the survival of a village if absolutely necessary, but a group needs more than one woman to keep going. From an evolutionary biology perspective, women were just more valuable. Men are designed to run fast and furious – it’s not a slow burn.

So, now that we are all living in a modern world, if men want to live longer, we’ve got to upgrade the system. Men, we have to manage stress better. (Not because we’re more stressed; but because our bodies don’t handle stress as well. Girls get most of the soothing oxytocin). As in, reduce it and let it out so you feel relaxed (that means lots of exercise, not solely beer and the game, genius). You have to work out more than your wife, period. You do. You have to stop eating fast food, period. Completely.

A guy who avoids fast food, really manages stress, and stays trim has an excellent shot at some serious longevity. But biology, in addition to all the stupid stuff we do in our twenties, has set us up for shorter lifespans, so take action today, guys.

What are your thoughts?

If you like this piece, please Digg it.

If you’re a science nut like me, here are some great blogs:

Art DeVany – a good friend of mine and an original thinker with an interesting perspective

Omni Brain – all about the human brain: fun, interesting and informative

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[tags] evolution, biology, human development [/tags]

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7 Comments on "Are Men the Weakest Link?"

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[…] Men work twice as hard for Health May 15th, 2007 by Brick ONeil According to Mark Sisson on his blog , men here to workout and exercise twice as hard as women to stay just as healthy. […]

mikaela
mikaela
8 years 4 months ago

why dont you have any pictures on your website i want to see how weak you are

Alex K.
Alex K.
5 years 5 months ago

This article is my least favorite on this site. Early in human civilation, women were in fact, hunters. The hunted and killed animals themselves or right alongside men. Not all men today are “strong hunter” types; whereas, many women are strong physically and emotionally. Not all women run to the doctor for health checks.

Crazylady
Crazylady
6 months 11 days ago

Traditionally male jobs often are dirty, dangerous, and polluted. The declines of mining and textile manufacturing should bring male longevity figures closer to parity.

Violence against women will be the other factor reducing male life span. Unhealthy meals are only one way of junking out a physically or emotionally violent spouse without suffering legal consequences.

Jamie
Jamie
4 months 4 days ago
Good point about the jobs. I still think its a factor today. The level of exposure to nasty chemicals in most jobs is still a likely a factor for reduced life expectancy. My first year out of uni I worked in an analytical lab and one of the senior scientists their told me early on that organic chemists have a life expectancy of 10 years less than the average. In hindsight I should have quit on the spot but I didn’t take the comment all that seriously. I was in my early 20s so the possibility of dying in my… Read more »
Crazylady
Crazylady
4 months 3 days ago

My mechanic was a darling but he died in his early sixties, far too soon. I hate the idea that I could be paying a good person to kill them. No more Bangladeshi fashion, either.

tom LI
tom LI
4 months 4 days ago

I immediately knew the answer without reading further…Mom Nature wants nurturers over the destroyers. Plus she’s female, so she stacked the deck…! 😉

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