Narrowing sex differences in life expectancy: regional variations, 1971-1991

Frank Trovato, N. M. Lalu


A number of industrialized nations have recently experienced some degrees of constriction in their long-standing sex differentials in life expectancy at birth. In this study we examine this phenomenon in the context of Canada’s regions between 1971 and 1991: Atlantic (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island); Quebec, Ontario, and the West (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Northwest Territories). Decomposition analysis based on multiple decrement life tables is applied to address three questions: (1) Are there regional differentials in the degree of narrowing in the sex gap in life expectancy? (2) What is the relative contribution of major causes of death to observed sex differences in average length of life within and across regions? (3) How do the contributions of cause-of-death components vary across regions to either widen or narrow the sex gap in survival? It is shown that the magnitude of the sex gap is not uniform across the regions, though the differences are not large. The most important contributors to a narrowing of the sex gap in life expectancy are heart disease and external types of mortality (i.e., accidents, violence, and suicide), followed by lung cancer and other types of chronic conditions. In substantive terms these results indicate that over time men have been making sufficient gains in these causes of death as to narrow some of the gender gap in overall survival. Regions show similarity in these effects.

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