Eunuchs outlive other men

Castrated men living in Korea centuries ago outlived other men by a significant margin. The findings, reported in the September 25 issue of Current Biology, suggest that male sex hormones are responsible for shortening the lives of men, the researchers say.

The evidence comes after careful study of genealogy records of noble members of the Imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty (AD 1392-1910).

"This discovery adds an important clue for understanding why there is a difference in the expected between men and women," said Kyung-Jin Min of Inha University.

The castrated boys in Korea lost their in accidents—usually after being bitten by dogs—or underwent castration purposefully to gain early access to the palace. Eunuchs were allowed to marry and had families by adopting castrated boys or normal girls.

People in those days kept careful genealogy records as proof that they were of the noble class. By poring over those records, Min and colleague Cheol-Koo Lee of Korea University found that eunuchs lived 14 to 19 years longer than other men did. Amongst the 81 eunuchs they studied, three lived to the ripe old age of 100 or more, a feat of longevity that remains relatively rare even in developed countries today.

The incidence of among Korean eunuchs is at least 130 times greater than it is in the developed countries, Lee notes, and that can't be explained simply by the benefits of life in the palace, either. Most eunuchs spent as much time outside the palace as they did inside it. And, in fact, kings and male members of the royal family had the shortest lives of all, typically surviving only to their mid-forties.

The findings may offer some clues to and, in the meantime, men might take heed, Min and Lee quip. "For better health and longevity, stay away from stresses and learn what you can from women."

More information: Min et al.: "The lifespan of Korean eunuchs" Current Biology, 2012.

Related Stories

Why women live longer than men

date Nov 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- On average, women live five or six years longer than men. There are six 85-year-old women to four men of the same age, and by the age of 100 the ratio is greater than two to one. Many hypotheses have been ...

Men-women life expectancy gap narrows

date May 01, 2006

Women may have longer life expectancy than men but that gap in the United States has now narrowed to five years, the shortest in 50 years.

Women now live longer than men even in poorest countries

date Apr 07, 2006

2006 is likely to be the first year in human history when, across almost all the world, women can expect to outlive men, say researchers from the University of Bristol and the University of Sheffield in this week's BMJ.

Recommended for you

Drug and device firms paid $6.5B to care providers

date 3 hours ago

From research dollars to free lunches and junkets, drug and medical device companies paid doctors and leading hospitals nearly $6.5 billion last year, according to government data posted Tuesday.

Running with prosthetic lower-limbs

date Jun 29, 2015

Researchers at Bournemouth University have been looking at the impact of lower-limb prosthetics on competitive running, specifically looking at whether athletes with prosthesis are at an unfair advantage when running against ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ArtflDgr
Sep 24, 2012
anyone other than me know enough history to point out to these docs that eunichs were very well treated... ie. they were neutered slaves, who could not compete and so could serve better. it would be like trying to compare an arabian gelding to common plough horses.
cantdrive85
Sep 24, 2012
They may be alive longer, but that ain't livin'.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.