Life expectancy for both sexes and all ages has risen almost without interruption in France since the early 1950s. Women’s life expectancy at birth increased by 14.6 years from 1950 to 2005, and men’s by 13.3 years. In the last twenty years, the gap in life expectancy between the sexes has stopped widening and begun to close. This is mainly due to an acceleration in the improvement among men, but some slowing in improvement among women under 60 is also perceptible. At later ages, on the other hand, improvement continued to be more rapid for women than men. Although cancer mortality is falling for both men and women, cancer is now the leading cause of death, overtaking cardio-vascular disease, for which mortality has considerably reduced. Among the oldest groups, the exceptionally high mortality due to the 2003 heat wave caused only a brief interruption in the positive trend brought about mainly by lower cardio-vascular mortality. Future improvement will depend on success in the control of cancer and neuro-degenerative disease.