Sexual Selection and the Paradox of Male Mortality

There is a paradox in the human gender and health literature that has been recognized, but ignored for some years. There are consistent sex differences in mortality and longevity between men and women, with women surviving longer than men at most ages and in most areas of the world. There are also consistent sex differences in reported health and well-being with men reporting better health and greater well-being than women. Based off of Zahavi’s (1975) Handicap Hypothesis, as well as the Immunocompetence Handicap theory developed by Folstad and Karter (1992), we are proposing that women prefer men who take slight risks with their health by ignoring minor illnesses and fatigue, which is consistent with most findings on women’s preferences for risky behavior. In this literature review, we have theorized that for long-term mates women have preferentially selected men who ignored fatigue and minor health problems.

Danielle Zandbergen
University of Hawaii, Hilo

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