New perspective on why women live longer than men: An exploration of power, gender, social determinants, and capitals

Fran Baum, Connie Musolino, Hailay Abrha Gesesew, Jennie Popay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Women live longer than men, even though many of the recognised social determinants of health are worse for women than men. No existing explanations account fully for these differences in life expectancy, although they do highlight the complexity and interaction of biological, social and health service factors. Methods: this paper is an exploratory explanation of gendered life expectancy difference (GLED) using a novel combination of epidemiological and sociological methods. We present the global picture of GLED. We then utilise a secondary data comparative case analysis offering explanations for GLED in Australia and Ethiopia. We combine a social determinant of health lens with Bourdieu’s concepts of capitals (economic, cultural, symbolic and social). Results: we confirmed continuing GLED in all countries ranging from less than a year to over 11 years. The Australian and Ethiopian cases demonstrated the complex factors underpin-ning this difference, highlighting similarities and differences in socioeconomic and cultural factors and how they are gendered within and between the countries. Bourdieu’s capitals enabled us to partially explain GLED and to develop a conceptual model of causal pathways. Conclusion: we demonstrate the value of combing a SDH and Bourdieu’s capital lens to investigate GLED. We pro-posed a theoretical framework to guide future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number661
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2021


  • Aus-tralia
  • Bourdieu
  • Ethiopia
  • Gender inequities
  • Health inequities
  • Life expectancy
  • Patriarchy
  • Power
  • Social determinants


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