Why women live longer
Ottawa — If men dropped their risky ways and bad habits they would live just as long as women, suggests a major new report on women's health.
The study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information rejects the widespread assumption that women live longer because of an inborn biological advantage.
"If you could stop accidents and smoking-related diseases and things like that in men, in fact the life expectancy's exactly the same," Donna Stewart, chairwoman of women's health at the Women's Health Network and co-author of the report, said in an interview.
According to statistics from 1997 to 1999, Canadian women have a life expectancy of 81.4 years compared with 75.9 years for men.
When deaths from preventable causes are excluded, however, life expectancy for women is 73.5 years, slightly less than the average of 73.9 for men.
"It's not biological advantage that makes the difference, it's the kind of habits that people have that make the difference."
Other findings in the study:
* More than half of single mothers experience "food insecurity," which means they worry about having enough to eat.
* Young women who live in rural areas have an overall mortality rate 2.5 times that of their counterparts in the city.
* Women are more dissatisfied with their bodies than men, even when they're in the ideal weight range.
* Between 1973 and 1998, the incidence of breast cancer increased 25 per cent. The study says the increase is not understood although better detection is one factor.
* Forty per cent of sexually active unmarried young women report not using contraception consistently.
* 42.4 per cent of women aged 15-24 report violence from their partners.
* Young women aged 15-19 have six times the average rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea infections.
* Among young Canadians aged 15-19, women now account for 44.5 per cent of new positive HIV tests