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Smoking "behind gender health gap"

Smoking is the main reason why men die younger than women, a study has suggested.

Figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that up to 60% of the gender health gap in most European countries is caused by tobacco-related illnesses.

Statistics published in the journal Tobacco Control indicate that deaths from all causes were higher for men than for women in 30 European countries.

In the UK, women typically live four years longer than men, although the gap has narrowed in recent years.

Researchers discovered that smoking was behind between 40% and 60% of the gender gap in all countries, except Denmark, Portugal and France, where it was lower, and Malta where it was much higher - at over 70%.

Iceland and the UK had the smallest gender gap, with around 200 excess male deaths per 100,000 population each year.

Lithuania and Ukraine had the highest number of excess male deaths, with more than 800 per 100,000 population.

According to the researchers, alcohol is another major factor and accounts for 20% of the disparity.

Dr Gerry McCartney, who led the research for the Medical Research Council, said: "This study shows it's not simply a biological difference between men and women.

"The fact that the gender gap varies between countries shows it is social causes, and largely smoking-related."

The research was not immediately available online.

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World Health Organization