|Excess male mortality as an inherent component of modernization|
|The phenomenon of the excess male mortality has been widely accepted to be universal both in regional and historic dimensions. Main reasons for the difference between male and female life expectancies were attributed to different economic and social roles played by men and women in the society, and to different attention paid by men and women to their health status. Few examples of female excess mortality known in historic data are always considered to be related to diseases of pregnancy and puerperium.
Demographic data on human mortality in Western Europe in the XVIII and XIX centuries contradict this common knowledge. In fact, the difference between male and female life expectancies arose at the end of the XVIII century and sharply increased during next 150 years. There are no historical evidences on excess male mortality prior to XIX century. The aim of this paper is to show that the excess male mortality is inherently related to modernization, and to diagnose specific components of modernization that mostly contributed to this phenomenon.
The analysis covers the period from the end of the XVIII century to the present times, and is based on the life tables for France, England and Wales, although several examples pertain also to Italy and Switzerland. In order to identify modernization phenomena relevant for the excess male mortality, the composition of deaths by their causes for two extreme age groups, under 1 year and over 50 years, will be analysed. The selection of these particular age groups stems from the fact that according to life tables reconstructed for France and England, the increase in female longevity results from the excess male mortality in these age groups. This shows that standard explanations for the difference between male and female life expectancies, such as maternal deaths or excessively dangerous labour environment for men, are not very useful.
Key words: excess male mortality, modernization, demographic transition, health transition.