In Switzerland, the gap between male and female life expectancy at birth has been shrinking. However, the gap in life expectancy at the age of 65, which only emerged in 1876 has remained relatively consistent over the last two decades, according to statistics from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO). Over the last 20 years it has remained around 3 years in favour of women.
When the current retirement ages (64 for women and 65 for men), which are set to be equalised after a recent referendum, are combined with life expectancy at 65, an average Swiss women can expect 4 years more pension than an average Swiss man – 1 extra year of pension and 3 extra years of life expectancy.
From 1876 until 1895 there was almost no difference in life expectancy between men and women in Switzerland (see chart). Both men and women who reached the age of 65 could expect on average to live for another 10 years. From 1895 until around 1990 the gap rose from virtually zero to nearly 5 years before shrinking back to 3.7 years in 2000. Since then it has moved up and down between 2.7 and 3.8 years with a slight downward trend overall.
Theories to explain the gender age gap in life expectancy are numerous. Some are focused on lifestyle: men are more likely to smoke and drink excessively, be overweight, undertake more physically demanding work and live more stressful lives. Women are also more likely to visit the doctor. Other theories are focused on biology. It may be that having two X chromosomes provides an advantage in the cell replication process, something that is more likely to go wrong as we age.