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Lifestyle, pressure from society and suppressed emotions driving Kenyans to an early death

A garbage man and a marabou stork scavenge at Nyambera dumping site in the outskirts of Kisii town. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The average Kenyan woman lives to age 66.5 years, compared to a man who lives up to 60.6 years, the 2022 Economic Survey has revealed.

The survey, released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in Nairobi on Thursday, also shows that the average age of a Kenyan man’s first marriage is 27, while women marry at 23 years.

The figures are not restricted to Kenya.

Women’s lifespan is almost 8 per cent on average longer than men’s lifespan.

As of 2019, figures from the US Center for Diseases Control (CDC) noted that the average American man lives to age 76, while the average American woman lives to age 81.

The lifespan gap is not a new phenomenon, experts argue.

Dr Benson Ayaga, a sociologist, attributes social and psychological factors as some of the reasons men die younger.

Ayaga notes that men harbour a lot of psychological and emotional stress, do not readily open up and keep to themselves, which may lead to early deaths.

“Men tend to suppress their emotions but women share more and speak up,” Dr Ayaga said..

“These things put them in life-threatening situations and push men to an early grave.”

Societal and life pressure also plays a big role.

Men are seen as bread winners and are expected to provide and hold their households together.

These demands can sometimes turn out to be too much for them.

“People don’t seem to care if a man has suffered a job loss. They care that you provide and take the biggest share of responsibilities in the family,” Ayaga says.

“In some cases, women also get support from their children when they are older while men get little to no support, yet they are expected to go through life the same.”

Dr Ayaga also notes that men’s exposure to violence and fights may contribute to their early deaths.

“In situations of domestic fights, many a time women are not the first to be attacked.

“Men die younger due to violence when they come to the frontlines to protect their families,” Dr Ayaga.

The lifespan gap can also be pinned down to lifestyle choices of both men and women.

Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that 40 per cent of men are smokers compared to 9 per cent women, and that fewer women abuse alcohol compared to men. 

Dr Perminder Sachdev, a professor of at the University of New South Wales, told Time Magazine in 2019 that women outlive men because of men’s aggressive and carefree behaviour.

“Men are more likely to smoke, drink excessively and be overweight,” said Dr Sachdev.

“They are also less likely to seek medical help early, and, if diagnosed with a disease, they are more likely to be non-adherent to treatment.”