Causes of Male Excess Mortality: Insights from Cloistered Populations


  • Marc Luy

    1. Marc Luy is Research Scientist, Federal Institute for Population Research (Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung), Wiesbaden, Germany.
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The degree to which biological factors contribute to the existence and the widening of mortality differences by sex remains unclear. To address this question, a mortality analysis for the years 1890 to 1995 was performed comparing mortality data on more than 11,000 Catholic nuns and monks in Bavarian communities living in very nearly identical behavioral and environmental conditions with life table data for the general German population. While the mortality differences between women and men in the general German population increased considerably after World War II, they remained almost constant among the members of Bavarian religious orders during the entire observation period, with slight advantages for nuns. Thus, the higher differences observable in the general population cannot be attributed to biological factors. The different trends in sex-specific mortality between the general and the cloistered populations are caused exclusively by men in the general population who were unable to follow the trend in mortality reduction of women, nuns, and especially monks. Under the special environmental conditions of nuns and monks, biological factors appear to confer a maximum survival advantage for women of no more than one year in remaining life expectancy at young adult ages.