On average, women’s life expectancy is 5.8 years longer than men in the United States. This is a sizable enough difference that any man should be learning about what they can do to increase their odds. Many factors play into this life span gap, including mental health. Some mental health conditions men have a higher rate of developing also come with shortened life expectancies. Let’s take a look at some examples — such as schizoaffective disorder life expectancy — to understand what contributes to the problem and what can be done about it.
Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men?
Interestingly, women live longer than men on average all across the globe. In the United States, the gender gap in life expectancy has continued to increase over the last century. So, what’s contributing to this widening difference?
- Behavioral factors. Men tend to take more risks than women, opening them up to life-threatening injuries.
- Smoking. Internationally, men smoke more than women.
- Estrogen. It’s believed that women’s higher estrogen levels help them lower cholesterol levels and reduce risks of heart disease.
- Biological. Women are thought to have stronger immune systems than men.
- Mental health. Men have various mental health factors that can contribute to their lower life spans — both in the mental health conditions they develop and their treatment rates.
Mental Health and Its Impact on Men’s Life Span
Mental health factors impact men’s life spans in two ways. First, men are more likely to develop specific mental health illnesses that come with a risk of a shortened life span. Additionally, men are much less likely to seek treatment for their mental health conditions, which can open them up to worsening symptoms and risks.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific mental health conditions that can impact a man’s life expectancy.
Schizoaffective Disorder Life Expectancy
Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental illness that comes with symptoms of both schizophrenia (hallucinations, delusions, etc.) and mood disorder (mania, depression, etc.).
Men and women experience schizoaffective disorder at the same rates, but men tend to have an earlier onset. This can present additional challenges because decision-making and emotional regulation skills aren’t as advanced in youth, making navigating a serious mental health condition much harder.
Additionally, men tend to have more negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia. These include lower social functioning and substance abuse.
Overall, having schizoaffective disorder lowers a person’s life expectancy. One study found that women lose an average of 13 years due to schizophrenia, while men may lose up to 16 years. As schizoaffective disorder comes with schizophrenia symptoms, a similar comparison could be drawn here.
Depression Life Expectancy
Millions of Americans develop depression at some point in their lives. This mental health condition is one of the most common in the United States. Depression can look vastly different in different people, as cases can range from mild to severe.
Major depression is one of the more serious types of depression and can be life-threatening. Individuals with major depression persistently feel low and experience symptoms such as isolation, poor sleep, lack of energy, suicidal thoughts and loss of pleasure and motivation. Cases of minor depression require two symptoms for a diagnosis, while those with major depression have at least five symptoms.
Overall, depression is more prevalent in women than men. However, depression is still incredibly commonplace for men. In the United States, more than 6 million men struggle with depression yearly. Additionally, men tend to seek help less than women, so the number may be much higher due to undocumented cases.
Even though depression seemingly impacts women more, men’s depression can really take a toll. Depression and suicide are considered leading causes of death in men in the United States. And men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women.
A Canadian study found that depression can lower a person’s life expectancy by an average of 10 years.
OCD Life Expectancy
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by uncontrollable repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions), or both. A common misconception about OCD is that people with this illness prefer things tidy and organized. In reality, OCD can come with extreme symptoms that impact a person’s quality of life and ability to do daily tasks regularly. On average, people with OCD spend at least an hour contending with their obsessions or compulsions daily.
OCD tends to impact women 1.6 times more often than men. A Danish study followed 10,155 persons with OCD and found that 1.1% of people who had OCD died within an average of 9.7 years of follow-up. This means those with OCD are at a risk for a shorter life span than the general population.
While OCD may impact women more, it’s likely men don’t seek help at the same rates. This means men are living with the adverse side effects of their condition, which can add stress to their lives and is yet another contributor to a shorter life span.
Anxiety Life Expectancy
Along with depression, anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions. People with anxiety disorders typically deal with intrusive, panicked thoughts that impact their ability to live normally. Over 40 million American adults are affected by an anxiety disorder every year.
Anxiety tends to impact women more than men, but the difference is in how each gender reacts to their condition. Women with anxiety are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with another anxiety disorder, bulimia or major depressive disorder. In comparison, men are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, intermittent explosive disorder or substance abuse. One study found that men often deal with their anxiety by turning to substance abuse.
Of course, substance abuse comes with many risks, including a shorter life expectancy.
So, how many years does anxiety take off your life? It varies significantly per person, depending on the severity of their anxiety. But the clear answer is that the condition does decrease a person’s life span.
Encouraging Men to Prioritize Mental Health and Seek Support
Life expectancy differences between the sexes will always remain, but individuals can do their best to limit the gap. Men still feel a lot of shame and stigma about getting help for their mental health, but that thinking could be costing them years off their life.
It’s essential that men understand the benefits of seeking professional help. Mental health conditions are highly treatable, and no one has to live without addressing their symptoms.
Seek Mental Health Treatment at FHE Health
At FHE Health, we help individuals return to living happy, fulfilled lives by addressing their problems. Our fully equipped mental health facility has a variety of programs that help individuals understand and work through their conditions. You deserve to live a long, happy life. Contact us today to learn more.