Can Changing Patterns in Smoking Prevalence among Women and Men Explain the Narrowing Gender Gap in Life Expectancy? A Cross-National Perspective

Roland Rau, Duke University
Marleen Dettmann, Robert Koch Institute

In this paper we analyze two hypotheses on the impact of smoking on the development of male-female life expectancy differentials. First, do period changes in smoking prevalence of women and men have a considerable impact on the gender gap in life expectancy? Secondly, is the smoking history of a cohort a strong determinant of subsequent mortality and can, thus, explain the development in the gender gap in life expectancy? Our results show no clear support for either of the two hypotheses. In some countries (the US and partly in Austria), the period changes in smoking prevalence appear to have an impact on the gender-gap in life expectancy twenty years later. Most countries, though, do not support our initial assumption. Similarly, cohort effects seems to be instrumental in some countries. Other countries display the opposite effect, though, making general conclusions about the impact of smoking for all countries unfeasible.

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Presented in Session 169: Gender and Health Risks over the Life Course