Sex and death

Is illness sex-blind? Sometimes, but there are clear cases of a sex bias

On average, women in the UK can expect to live more than four years longer than men, though they will spend more time in later life in ill health. Such differences in the incidence of disease may reflect the effects of X-linked conditions such as haemophilia, which affects men more than women.

Differing actions of sex hormones may also have a sex-biased effect – for example, women tend to suffer more from weaker bones (osteoporosis) due to low levels of oestrogen after the menopause. Women are also more likely to suffer from the autoimmune disorders lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Sex differences can also be seen in brain and behavioural disorders.

Table showing illnesses and conditions that are more likely to affect women or men

A schematic view of sex differences in disease. For each condition, the more icons there are, the more common the disease is in one sex compared to the other.


‘Big Picture: Sex and Gender’ (November 2014) 


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Sex and Gender’ in November 2014.

Genetics and genomics, Statistics and maths, Health, infection and disease
Sex and Gender
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development