The Biological Force behind Excess Male External Cause Mortality: An Analysis of Unnatural Deaths among Catholic Order Members

Marc Luy, Vienna Institute of Demography

It is still unclear if and how biological factors contribute to excess male mortality due to "external causes" (accidents, injuries, homicides, and suicides). Sex hormones and reproductive roles are supposed to drive sex differences in behaviors increasing the male external cause mortality risk. This study analyzes the external cause mortality of Catholic nuns and monks from three Bavarian cloisters whose similar environments allow one to isolate the impact of biological factors from a number of confounding causes. Using obituaries, entries in the profession books of religious orders and cemetery registers 2,533 deaths of nuns and monks could be linked to a specific cause of death for the years 1946-2005. Whereas nuns show statistically significantly lower external cause mortality than general population women, monks' external cause mortality parallels or even exceeds that of general population males. These findings contradict the reproductive role hypothesis and provide some evidence for the sex hormones hypothesis.

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Presented in Session 60: Adult Mortality