The Biological Differences Between Women and Men

5 minute read

By Kathleen Corrigan

We don’t subscribe to the whole “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” thing, but it’s a fact that men and women are built differently. If you’re interested in these differences, you can learn more with an online search right now.

There are biological distinctions between the sexes that go beyond our reproductive parts. Although there are exceptions to every rule, here are 14 general physiological differences between men and women.

Fat is distributed differently

Nearly everyone gains weight as they grow older and while women tend to be heavier around the hips, men are more likely to carry fat around their abdomen. Heavy thighs and buttocks on women actually serve a biological purpose as these deposits are meant to provide the extra energy needed while pregnant, which is why it’s difficult for women to shed fat around their pelvis. Sadly, belly fat in men serves no such purpose and is in fact linked to an increased risk for diseases like diabetes, coronary disease, and cancer.

Males are more likely to have birth defects

Around 3% of babies in the United States are born with birth defects. Unfortunately, males are more predisposed due to their genetic makeup. The X chromosome, of which women have two while men only have one, contains nearly 2,000 genes and any mutation of these genes can lead to X chromosome-linked birth defects. While women have an extra X chromosome to fall back on, men do not and are therefore more likely to be born with a number of defects, such as Turner’s syndrome and cryptorchidism.

Men “run warmer” than women

Any man who has been in a relationship with a woman can probably tell you that she spends most of the winter underneath a blanket while he strolls around the house in a T-shirt.  This has to do with blood flow and fat distribution in the body. When humans experience cold, our blood flows around our organs to maintain our core temperature.

Because women have more fat on their bodies, the warmth of our blood flow doesn’t reach our skin or extremities as easily, giving us an overall feeling of chilliness that men don’t experience.

Men and women can’t hear each other as they age

It sounds like the premise of a lame joke that only old married folks would get, but it’s actually true that as men and women age, we don’t hear each other as well as we used to.  Over time, male ears have more difficulty picking up higher frequencies while women have trouble hearing lower frequencies. Overall though, women tend to experience less hearing loss than men in their lifetime.

Women are better at talking about feelings

Men to tend to have bigger brains than women do, even when you factor in their larger body mass — but bigger isn’t necessarily better. For example, women have verbal centers on both the right and left side of the brain while men only have one on the left side. This means that women are generally better at discussing and describing emotions than men. Women’s brains also tend to have better blood flow to the cingulate gyrus than men, which is the part of the brain that processes emotions, making women more likely to revisit emotional memories.

Women tend to see more colors

They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but perhaps “green” is in the eye of the beholder. Studies have shown that women are better at identifying colors because male eyes require a longer wavelength than females to experience the same hue. Since longer wavelengths are associated with warmer colors, greens look greener to women, but more yellow to men. Women are also capable of seeing and identifying more shades than men typically can.

But men are better at scanning

Women might see more colors, but men are better at scanning and seeing details and quickly moving objects from afar. This is thought to date back to the days when women were gatherers and men were hunters. As hunters, men needed to be able to see predators coming from far away and assess situations from a distance, whereas women are better at recognizing objects up close which helped them fill the role of “gatherer” more easily.

Heart attack symptoms are different for women and men

Oftentimes, women do not realize that they are having a heart attack because they are not experiencing typical signs, such as pain in the left arm or pressure on the chest. These symptoms are actually more prevalent in men, whereas women tend to experience milder symptoms, such as a feeling reminiscent of heartburn, shortness of breath, dizziness, or even flu-like symptoms.

Men have a “spatial advantage”

It’s no secret that men outnumber women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), and while this certainly has to do with societal factors, brain structure could also play a role. Studies have shown that men tend to outperform women in spatial tasks, such as recognizing how three-dimensional objects would look if rotated. Scientists believe that this difference is slight, but that it is compounded by gender roles, as boys are more likely to be encouraged to hone this ability through toys like Lego blocks, and later through academics.

Men and women feel jealousy differently

It’s long been thought that women and men experience jealousy in different ways. Women are thought to be more likely to experience emotional jealousy while male jealousy is usually sexual in nature. Recent studies have not only found this to be true, but they’ve also concluded that this difference could even serve an evolutionary purpose. The theory is that men fear sexual infidelity because it could mean that the child their partner produces might not be theirs, and raising another man’s child is not in one’s evolutionary interest. Women fear abandonment, which is almost guaranteed to occur if their partner forms an emotional bond with another woman.

Women’s brains mature faster

Women’s bodies tend to mature at a faster rate than men, and so do their brains. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that manages impulse control and the ability to understand consequences. Studies have shown that women’s frontal lobes tend to develop at a faster rate than men, which sadly explains why young men are more likely to engage in risky or even criminal behavior than young women are. It’s thought that the male forebrain isn’t fully developed until 20 or even 30 years of age.

Men are stronger, right down to their bones

Although we have no doubt that you probably know a woman or two who could win an arm wrestling competition against your average dude, overall men are physically bigger than women and have up to 50% more upper arm strength. Males also tend to have bigger bones and experience less bone density loss over time than women, which would explain why osteoporosis is typically a concern for women as they age, more than it is for men.

Women are more likely to experience depression

Depression is twice as likely to occur in women than it is in men and this is thought to be the result of hormones. Due to the nature of the female reproductive system and brain chemistry, women experience hormonal fluctuations more often than men, leaving them more susceptible to major depressive disorders. This is compounded by the fact that women tend to have a longer life expectancy, giving them more time to experience illness, unhappiness, and loneliness in their lives.

But men are more predisposed to alcoholism

Women may be twice as likely to be depressed, however, men are twice as likely to be alcoholics. Studies at Columbia and Yale have determined that male brains tend to derive more pleasure from drinking than women’s brains do. Men experience a greater rush of dopamine to their ventral striatum, the area of the brain associated with addiction and pleasure, making them more likely to form unhealthy drinking habits.

Kathleen Corrigan