Researchers at the University of Southern California have shown that the wide gap between men and women's life expectancies only emerged by the turn of the last century.
It is now widely accepted that women live longer than men in all countries, though this is a relatively new phenomenon.
The trend set in around 1870 when death from infectious diseases started becoming less common and more deaths were linked cancer and cardiovascular disease, which affect men more than women.
A girl born in 2012 could expect to live upto the age of 73 on the basis of global averages, while a boy born the same year was expected to live to be 68-years-old, outliving by six years a child born in 1990.
The researchers from the Davis School of Gerontology at USC studied historical data from 1,763 birth groups in 13 developed countries from 1800 to 1935 and published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and supported by the National Institute on Aging.
Men were more likely to die earlier than women, especially between the ages of 50 to 70, and after 80, the discrepancy decreased to some extent.
According to the study, among people born before 1840, death rates were about the same for men and women of a given age, though for people born between 1880 and 1899, death rates for men aged 50 to 70 were 1.5 times greater than those for women of the same age.
In people born after 1900, the research revealed that the death rate of 50- to 70-year-old men was double that of women of the same age. The researchers said cardiovascular disease was the main cause of the higher death rates among men, and heart disease and stroke accounted for over 40 per cent of the increase in male mortality rates as against female mortality rates between 1880 and 1919, the researchers noted.
The researchers said biologically, men might be more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, but this susceptibility was seen only after deaths from other causes, such as infections, started to decline.