In the United States, men’s lives are an average of 5.8 years shorter than women’s, according to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This difference in life expectancy is called the longevity gap, and it’s increased from a two-year gap in 1900 to a gap of nearly six years in 2021.
Life expectancy refers to the average number of years a person can expect to live, based on their birth year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The Social Security Administration has a calculator that forecasts how much longer a person can expect to live based on their birth year and gender.
Men born in the United States in 2021 were expected to live, on average, to age 73.5. Meanwhile, women born in 2021 were expected to live 5.8 years longer to an average age of 79.3.
The lifespans for both genders had been rising for decades — in 1900, the average life expectancy for men was 46.3 and 48.3 for women. Life expectancy for both genders recently peaked in 2019, when men were expected to live to age 76.3, on average, and women to age 81.4. COVID-19 then became a leading cause of death, contributing to men losing 2.8 years and women losing 2.1 years from their average lifespans by 2021.
Heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19 were the three leading causes of death for both men and women in 2021. However, they impacted men at higher rates than women: 940,166 men died from the top three causes of death in 2021 — 162,679 more than women who died from the same causes.
While many of the top 15 causes of death for men and women are the same, each top cause occurs at a higher rate in men than women.
Beyond the top three causes of death, accidents (149,602 deaths), stroke (70,852), and chronic lower respiratory diseases (67,528) were the most common causes of death for men in 2021.
For women, stroke was the fourth-most common cause of death (92,038 deaths), Alzheimer’s disease was fifth (82,424), and accidents were sixth (75,333).
While most causes of death are the same for each gender but occurring at different rates, some are unique. Hypertension and nutritional deficiencies account for two of the top 15 causes of death for women, but neither appears in the top 15 causes for men. Meanwhile, homicide and suicide are among the top 15 causes of death for men, but not for women.
|Cause of death||Deaths|
|Accidents (unintentional injuries)||149,602|
|Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)||70,852|
|Chronic lower respiratory diseases||67,528|
|Chronic liver disease||35,707|
|Influenza and Pneumonia||22,373|
|Cause of death||Deaths|
|Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)||92,038|
|Accidents (unintentional injuries)||75,333|
|Chronic lower respiratory diseases||74,814|
|Chronic liver disease||20,878|
|Influenza and Pneumonia||19,544|
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics collects population data on life expectancy categorized by gender and race. The trend tables also track numerous other health data, from fertility and birth rates, to how frequently health care services are used or offices frequented over time.
Learn more about how the government defines "life expectancy," how it varies by state, and the recent drop in life expectancy, and get the data directly in your inbox by signing up for our email newsletter.
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