Sex differences in mortality among children, adolescents, and young people aged 0-24 years: a systematic assessment of national, regional, and global trends from 1990 to 2021.

Fengqing Chao, Bruno Masquelier, Danzhen You, Lucia Hug, Yang Liu, David Sharrow, Haavard Rue, Hernando Ombao, Leontine Alkema, UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Differences in mortality exist between sexes because of biological, genetic, and social factors. Sex differentials are well documented in children younger than 5 years but have not been systematically examined for ages 5–24 years. We aimed to estimate the sex ratio of mortality from birth to age 24 years and reconstruct trends in sex-specific mortality between 1990 and 2021 for 200 countries, major regions, and the world. Methods: We compiled comprehensive databases on the mortality sex ratio (ratio of male to female mortality rates) for individuals aged 0–4 years, 5–14 years, and 15–24 years. The databases contain mortality rates from death registration systems, full birth and sibling histories from surveys, and reports on household deaths in censuses. We modelled the sex ratio of age-specific mortality as a function of the mortality in both sexes using Bayesian hierarchical time-series models. We report the levels and trends of sex ratios and estimate the expected female mortality and excess female mortality rates (the difference between the estimated female mortality and the expected female mortality) to identify countries with outlying sex ratios. Findings: Globally, the mortality sex ratio was 1·13 (ie, boys were more likely to die than girls of the same age) for ages 0–4 years (90% uncertainty interval 1·11 to 1·15) in 2021. This ratio increased with age to 1·16 (1·12 to 1·20) for 5–14 years, reaching 1·65 for 15–24 years (1·52 to 1·75). In all age groups, the global sex ratio of mortality increased between 1990 and 2021, driven by faster declines in female mortality. In 2021, the probability of a newborn male reaching age 25 years was 94·1% (93·7 to 94·4), compared with 95·1% for a newborn female (94·7 to 95·3). We found a disadvantage of females versus males (compared with countries with similar total mortality) in 2021 in five countries for ages 0–4 years (Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, and Iran), one country (Suriname) for ages 5–14 years, and 13 countries for ages 15–24 years (including Bangladesh and India). We found the reverse pattern (disadvantage of males vs females compared with countries of similar total mortality) in one country in ages 0–4 years (Vietnam) and eight countries in ages 15–24 years (including Brazil and Mexico). Globally, the number of excess female deaths from birth to age 24 years was 86 563 (–6059 to 164 000) in 2021, down from 544 636 (453 982 to 633 265) in 1990. Interpretation: The global sex ratio of mortality for all age groups in the first 25 years of life increased between 1990 and 2021. Targeted interventions should focus on countries with outlying sex ratios of mortality to reduce disparities due to discrimination in health care, nutrition, and violence.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1519-e1530
JournalThe Lancet. Global health
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 19 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-09-27
Acknowledgements: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US Agency for International Development, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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