Behind every successful man is a strong woman. This saying is well known to the society. And now this is proved via a university.
Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Southern Denmark very helpfully trawled through historical data looking at death rates for men and women who suffered famines and epidemics, or who were sold into slavery.
In virtually every case, they found that women survived their ordeals far longer, often outliving their male counterparts by years, even when conditions were equally dire.
For example, before the Irish Potato Famine, which devastated the country from 1845 to 1849, both men and women lived until they were 38, on average.
But at the height of the crisis, although life expectancy dropped to 18.17 for men, it only fell to 22.4 for women.
The same pattern was seen during the Swedish famine of 1772-73 and Ukraine harvest failures of 1933.
Women also lived longer during two 19th-century Icelandic measles outbreaks, with females lasting up to two years longer than men.
Women: Biological ‘hardier’?
The researchers said the results suggest that women are fundamentally biologically “hardier” than men, which may be due to differences in sex hormones.
Oestrogen is a known anti-inflammatory, which also protects the vascular system, while testosterone is a risk factor for many fatal diseases. The male sex hormone may also harm the immune system.
Evolutionary scientists believe that women may have a boosted immune system because they need to survive for at least nine months to give birth, whereas a man’s input into reproduction is transitory.
And because men only have one ‘X’ chromosome, rather than two like women, there is no backup if one does not function correctly.
Men: more fragile?
Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, said: “I think the answer possibly lies in the fact that males are more fragile. Women are just more determined: men give up quickly when the going gets tough,” he said.
“Women find it much harder to die in the final stages and often hang on in there well past the point at which males have given up and gone,” Dunbar added.
Max Headley, professor of physiology at the University of Bristol, added: “It’s well-known that women tend to have more subcutaneous fat and a lower metabolic rate. So their stores of energy are likely to last longer in a famine.”
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Emotional and mental stability
It is not just in life expectancy that women are strong, but also in emotional and mental stability.
Bilal Khalil, Lebanon
“I would say women are emotionally stronger than men in personal issues. An Arabic saying goes that behind every successful man is a strong woman; this saying is not unique to Arabs but to all societies. Women are able to absorb stress, and even when under stress, they remain supportive. Women are very good at multitasking. Women are also better at adapting. if they move to another country, they are more suited to adjusting to the new environment, while I believe that men struggle more at it.”
Usama Zafir and Minahil Zafir, Pakistani husband, and wife
Usama: “I wouldn’t say women are emotionally or mentally stronger than men, or vice versa. I don’t think you can just generalize. Sometimes I will be able to handle something better than my wife, and there will be times where she reacts in a stronger manner. I do believe [though] that women are more resilient. I think that shows a lot of strength. I would agree with the research that women are able to handle pressure better than men, and this is from my personal experience. My wife tends not to panic in tough situations, and can take sound decisions under pressure.”
Minahil: “I would disagree that [women] are emotionally stronger than men, because in certain situations, men are stronger. When it comes to adapting and handling pressure, I do feel women are stronger as women we face all sorts of pressures which men do not. Women are more answerable, with more expectations we have to handle.
“I think we do adapt to situations better; for example, I moved to Abu Dhabi because my husband got a job.”
Dr. Mohammad Naeemat, 50, Emirati businessman in Abu Dhabi
“Women today take up more challenging jobs and are capable of taking any responsibilities. Of course, they are stronger than men. Even the government of the UAE pays special attention towards the empowerment of women, and now their presence can significantly be felt in all government and private sectors of the country. Of course, there are times when men are better in some situations. It’s true that [women] are mentally and physiologically capable of taking up any challenge and they have proved it by holding big positions around the world.”
Mahmoud Al Katib, 67, Jordanian businessman in Abu Dhabi
“Without women, our existence is impossible. Though duties and responsibilities of both are different. Men are men. From driving a car, piloting a plane and traveling to the moon, everywhere they have proven their prowess. But [women] have upper hand in nurturing children, it can’t be done by men. So women are mentally stronger and emotionally attached to babies better than men.”
Sunita Waghle, President, Indian Ladies Association, Abu Dhabi
“Women are stronger than men in all aspects. When the responsibility is on them, they can face any sort of challenge. Women are more resilient under pressure. They multi-task better than men. Scientifically it has been proven that women are physiologically and mentally stronger than men to handle things including children. Keeping children psychologically balanced at home is one of the biggest challenges that women meet in a beautiful manner.”