Historically, demographically, ethnically, medically — no matter how you evaluate life spans, women live longer than men. From chromosomes to bad habits, the reasons why are muddied and inconsistent. Some scientists say stress, while others stress sex. While it is a fact that men, on average, have lives that are 5 percent shorter than women, there is little understanding as to why.
Until now: Recent research points to the fact that what makes men, well, "men," may also be what kills them — testosterone. The average adult man has up to 15 times the amount of testosterone of women and studies now show that the absence of the hormone may in fact be a good thing for life spans. Women consistently live longer — no matter the odds — because they produce such a trivial amount of it. Only eunuchs who were castrated before puberty have significantly longer lives than men who go through adolescent hormonal changes.
Did ancient cultures perhaps value these castrated males because they somehow knew they possessed longevity because of their missing testicles?
The idea that eunuchs are the only men who can live longer lives is fascinating for several reasons, the main one being that they have been historically essential to “male” roles across cultures. In Ancient Rome, they were essential confidants and sexual possessions in aristocratic courts, while Vikings raided monasteries for eunuchs to feed the slave trade for Islamic empires. Did ancient cultures perhaps value these castrated males because they somehow knew they possessed longevity because of their missing testicles?
It’s hard to say. But it is interesting to note that today, there are more eunuchs than ever in history (mainly because of prostate cancer). Maybe the future of men's health will not be driven by what they perceive makes them male, but in spite of it.
For now, here's an alternative from Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Solution: a study of regions where the local population enjoys exceptionally long average lifespans.
Daphne Muller is a New York City-based writer who has written for Salon, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and reviewed books for ELLE and Publishers Weekly. Most recently, she completed a novel and screenplay. You can follow her on Instagram @daphonay and on Twitter @DaphneEMuller.
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