A reassessment of sexual dimorphism in human senescence: Theory, evidence, and causation



Age-specific mortality rates of men are higher than those of women, and men have shorter average life spans than women. This has been interpreted as evidence of sexual dimorphism in rates of senescence. However, because mortality can be caused by numerous factors in addition to senescence, higher mortality rates do not necessarily indicate more rapid senescence. In this paper, we (1) emphasize the necessity of decoupling mortality and senescence when considering sexual dimorphism in senescence, (2) present a theoretical framework for the hypothesis that selection affects senescence in human males and females differently due to different life history characteristics, (3) consider phenotypic evidence from the literature that human males show a later onset of senescence than human females, despite exhibiting higher mortality rates, and (4) discuss the potential roles of mutation accumulation and antagonistic pleiotropy in the evolution of sexual dimorphism in senescence. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 18:161–168, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.