MEN outlive women in Third World countries. Women live longer than men in developed countries. But within the developed countries themselves, there are sharp differences in the deathrates and their causes.
A survey by a Glasgow team led by Dr Gerry McCartney has found that the gap in mortality rates between men and women is less than in many other countries. It also finds that 19pc is accounted for by higher alcohol-related deaths among men, but 55pc by smoking-related deaths among men.
On the face of it, this is an extraordinary conclusion. It seems to say that tobacco is three times as dangerous as alcohol. Yet only about 20pc of the Irish population smoke. Unfortunately, the figure has been rising, but as it happens, young women constitute the highest proportion of the increase.
Can we draw any firmer conclusions from the findings in other countries?
It would seem that countries with the lowest male-female differential are also the healthiest in general.
In Eastern Europe, the proportion of deaths attributable to alcohol ranged from 20pc to 30pc. Still, smoking killed even more people. At this point, scepticism must begin to grow. Does everybody in Iceland, which has a good record, live to be 100? Do Ukrainians and Lithuanians, who drink and smoke and display wide gender gaps, reach only half that age?
Obviously we need more research and more clarity on the findings. But one message is constant: the biggest killer is poverty.