An analysis of gender-based reversal in life expectancy in southern Africa

Poonam Jusrut, Ezekiel Kalipeni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper uses a geographic perspective in discussing the social inequalities in health between men and women in southern Africa. Keeping in mind the reality of data scarcity that show male and female differences in mortality, this paper uses life expectancy data to illustrate the widening gender inequalities in access to health. The analysis in the paper addresses two main objectives. First, the paper reviews the literature on the underlying factors behind the presence of drastic differences between male and female life expectancies. Secondly, the paper examines in greater detail the trends and geographical patterns in life expectancy in southern African countries, particularly the reversal of life expectancy in favor of men during the past 30 years or so. The results of the analysis show a worrisome trend in life expectancies with regard to gender. The advantage in life expectancy that females had over men before 1980 has all but disappeared during the past 25 years. To make matters worse, life expectancy declined dramatically for both males and females, and in some cases the declines were more than 10 years. Women experienced greater declines in life expectancy lowering them to below those of men, a condition contrary to what existed before the 1980s. The upsurge in HIV infections and the attendant high female mortality rates as well as other factors have combined to result in the unequal gender realities in as far as life expectancies are concerned in the countries of southern Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-554
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Life expectancy
  • Southern Africa
  • Triple burden of women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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