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Longevity Gender Gap in Europe Largely Due to Smoking

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A recent review of mortality data from 30 European countries found smoking to be the prime reason women are outliving men, the Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 18.

Researchers led by Gerry McCartney, head of the Public Health Observatory for the National Health Service in Glasgow, Scotland, extracted European all-cause mortality data from the World Health Organization’s Health-for-All database and calculated the proportion of deaths attributable to smoking or drinking according to gender.

The researchers found 40 to 60 percent of the difference in life expectancy between European men and women could be ascribed to smoking-related deaths. Alcohol-related deaths accounted for 20 to 30 percent of the gap in Eastern Europe, and 10 to 20 percent of the gap elsewhere in Europe.

“It is no surprise that two of the most important health behaviors, smoking and hazardous drinking, continue to account for substantial proportions of the gender gap in mortality,” the authors said in the paper. “Health behaviors have long been a powerful way of portraying gendered identities.”

“The continuing uptake of smoking among a significant minority of young people, and increases in detrimental patterns of alcohol consumption, point to the ongoing need for public health measures to reduce health-damaging behaviors,” they concluded.

The study was published online Jan. 12 in the journal Tobacco Control.

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