Informative graphics: male and female lifespan

Plot from wikipedia of male and female life expectancy at birth from CIA factbook data. The apparent 3D volumes of the bubbles are linearly proportional to their population

Last month I recorded an update to my Radio 4 programme on why women live longer than men (which you can still listen to online). A cut down version was broadcast on the BBC World Service. For this we wanted to include statistics for different countries. I was busy investigating official UN sources for these data, when I noticed that morning’s papers were reporting a relevant set of studies published that day in the Lancet . A couple of thoughts followed. Firstly, these new data indicate that in 2010, men had a higher life expectancy than women in only 2 countries: Afghanistan and Jordan . That’s in contrast to the UN data, which finds this effect in a small number of African countries too – suggesting the UN data could be inaccurate in these cases. Secondly, the data are given with uncertainty intervals for the first time, which got me thinking about the best way to illustrate the data. In particular, I’ve been thinking about how to improve the plot above (taken from the wikipedia page listing the life expectancy of different countries).

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