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Questions that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this, your section,
and be answered by other readers. Please address your answers and questions to ‘curiosities’.

Why in most communities in the world do women live longer than men?

According to Roy Collins of Oxford University (New Scientist, 23 October 1993) sex chromosomes, pregnancy, gluttony and male genitalia may all have their part to play.

Illustration: MIKKI RAIN He writes: ‘Mammalian females possess two X chromosomes, males only one... when something goes wrong with a woman’s X chromosome she has a spare one in reserve. A man has nothing. Disorders like haemophilia that are caused by faults on the X chromosome are therefore more common in males. Such diseases are rare and cannot alone explain the gender gap, but it may be that X chromosome faults contribute to disease more subtly.’

And, he continues, ‘As if dodgy sex chromosomes are not enough, there are the testicles. Recent scientific concern with the male genitalia has centred around the woefully declining sperm count of the human male. Little attention has been paid to the potential benefit of having no testicles at all. Yet an extraordinary “natural experiment” in a Kansas mental hospital early this century found that patients who were castrated (in the dubious hope of controlling their violent behaviour) lived far longer – on average to 69 years of age whereas intact males managed a mere 56. Perhaps thankfully, these results have never been replicated but it is well known that castration increases the lifespan of other male mammals.’

Collins goes on to point out that: ‘Gluttony, in the shape of heart disease, kills more men than women.’ This may be because women are better at storing nutrients such as cholesterol in the body and it means they are better than men at coping with the excesses of a modern Western diet.

Then there are reckless male lifestyles. ‘Men overeat more than women, and visit the doctor less. Throw in the odd war, murder, suicide and motor accident (in all of which men figure more prominently) and one can begin to see what is going on,’ says Collins.

He concludes that the main reason that women are living longer than they used to is because they are having fewer children. ‘Compared with the death rates of 60 or 70 years ago, today’s figures show a sharp decline in female deaths during the childbearing years. Nowadays female death rates are lower than males in every single age group.’

C Frank Fischl
Glasgow, Scotland.

Is there an organization that collects medical goods (not drugs) past their expiry date?

Out-of-date medical equipment (not drugs) can be used for Afghanistan and other countries by Jacob’s Well Appeal (Registered Charity No. 515235), Dr B Benyon, 2 Ladygate, Beverley, Hull, HU 17 8BH, England. Tel: 01482 881162, Fax: 01482 865452. Or for Bosnian refugees by Dr J Fennell, NW Refugee Aid, 16 Birch Grove, Ashton in Wakefield, WN4 OQZ, England. Tel: 01942 274546.

Kate Fussell
Wigan, England

Intercare sends medical supplies to small rural hospitals and clinics in seven African countries. It does so by collecting unused in-date drugs packaged as samples, together with discarded medical equipment, which it carefully sorts and dispatches. The address is: 49 Melton Road, Leicester, LE4 6PN, England. Tel: 0116 266 7326. Collection of items can be arranged.

R Cudmore
St Helens, England

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awaiting your answers

When I donate blood am I doing myself any good – apart from the good feeling I get from the belief that I am helping other people? Is there any modern research on this?

Trefor Puw
Newport, Wales

Apart from lemmings and humans are there any other creatures that commit suicide?

D Gold
Southrop, England

How much energy is needed to manufacture an average-sized car?

Leigh Cavanagh
Staines, England

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities, New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK, or to your local NI office (see inside front cover for addresses).




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©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996

New Internationalist issue 278 magazine cover This article is from the April 1996 issue of New Internationalist.
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