Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Is there a guide to long life?

12.10.2015

Life expectancy disparities between population groups have been increasing

At age 40, Finns, Swedes, and Norwegians have reached the approximate mid-point of life. It is well known that, on average, whether an individual has more or fewer than 40 additional years to live after reaching age 40 depends on the person’s sex. But almost as important as sex in determining life expectancy is whether the person belongs to the so-called “vanguard”: If the individual is married and well educated, he or she will, on average, live five years longer than others of the same sex.


The life expectancy of married and well educated women in Finland, Norway and Sweden is higher than that of Japanese women who, in international comparison, have the highest life expectancy. Source: Human Mortality Database, own calculations according to unpublished data from Statistics Finland, Statistics Sweden, Statistics Norway

© MPI for Demographic Research

How this came to be the case and whether this group, who represent the vanguard within the population, can show the way to a higher life expectancy is the subject of a study by Domantas Jasilionis of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and colleagues that has been published in the journal “Population”. The authors analyzed how the life expectancy of the vanguard group developed relative to that of the rest of the population from the early 1970s until the mid-1990s.

Generally, the country with the lowest life expectancy at the beginning of the 1970s made the most progress: since the mid-1990s in Finland, men gained an average of four years of life, while women gained an average of 3.5 years. Over the same period, Swedes gained an average of around 2.5 years of life, and Norwegians gained an average of two years; although in these two countries life expectancy increased more among women than among men. Finland, which had previously lagged behind its Nordic neighbors in terms of life expectancy, was able to catch up to Sweden and Norway.

But these figures were far higher among married and highly educated women and men: between the start of the 1970s and the mid-1990s, the Finnish women in this vanguard group gained an average of 5.5 years of life, while the Finnish men in this group gained an average of five years. The gap between the different population groups was greatest in Finland: in the 1970s the men in the vanguard group in Finland were living an average of 4.5 years longer than the rest of the population, but at the end of the 1990s members of this group were living an average of 5.6 years longer. Thus, the vanguard group not only had a much higher life expectancy; their life expectancy also increased more than that of the rest of the population.

Eight years between "vanguard" and average

In the other two countries as well the gap between the vanguard group and the rest of the population widened among both men and women.

We can see how far how far apart the average life expectancy levels are from the potential levels by looking at a narrowly defined vanguard group: women who are married and highly educated. At the end of the study period, the women in this group were, on average, living eight years longer than the rest of the population. There are no signs that this gap could be narrowing, or that the life expectancy gains of this female vanguard group will be lower in the future.

Although Jasilionis and his colleagues chose to focus in their analysis on three relatively egalitarian societies—Finland, Sweden, and Norway—they found considerable differences between the population groups in each of these countries. The gaps between population groups were shown to be even larger than the differences between countries, as a comparison with Japan, the country with the highest life expectancy in the world, demonstrates.

These disparities have been attributed to the relatively low rates of mortality from cardiovascular diseases among people who are married and highly educated. Due to a decline in the prevalence of these diseases, the male vanguard group in Sweden and Norway gained 2.5 years of life, while the rest of the male population gained just 1.6 years in Norway and 1.7 years in Sweden. Among Finnish men there was a similar gap between the vanguard group and the rest of the population. However, mortality from cardiovascular diseases decreased to a much greater extent in both male population groups in Finland, with the vanguard group gaining 3.7 years of life and the rest of the male population gaining 2.9 years.

These developments show that the progress that has been made in treating cardiovascular diseases has not yet reached all segments of the population. This pattern can be observed in international comparisons. Whether life expectancy continued to rise between the 1970s and the 1990s, as was the case in western Europe; or whether it stagnated, as was the case in many eastern European countries; depended in large part on the extent to which each country was successful in treating cardiovascular diseases.

Disparities based on anthropogenic causes of death

In Sweden, Norway, and Finland all other causes of death were of secondary importance. Of the trends related to other causes, the most notable was the reduction in cancer mortality (with tobacco-related cancers excluded) among all women and among Swedish men of the vanguard group. In Norway, by contrast, there was an overall increase in cancer except among the female vanguard group. This was also the case for smoking-related cancers, even though the rates of these cancers were higher among almost all women at the end of the 1990s than at the start of the study period. However, the rates of smoking-related cancers increased to a lesser extent among the female vanguard group than among the rest of the female population.

In general, the authors observed, the rates of so-called anthropogenic causes of death—such as smoking- or alcohol-related diseases, traffic accidents, murders, and suicides—were considerably lower among the vanguard groups than among the other population groups. Even in egalitarian societies there appear to be differences between groups in terms of health care access, lifestyle, and social and environmental conditions. It is also likely that in addition to differences in material conditions, other factors affect mortality, including psychological health and the sense of control over one’s own life.

The authors therefore argue that the less advantaged segments of the population cannot be expected to follow the life expectancy trajectory of the vanguard group, albeit with a delay. Instead, they posit, mortality among less privileged groups will likely follow a separate path. These patterns also appear to have country-specific characteristics. The differences in the levels of progress that have been made in fighting cancer and other causes of death among the different vanguard groups can point to new approaches to prolonging life; and, after the successful treatment of cardiovascular diseases, mark the start of a new health revolution in the three countries studied.


Contact

Domantas Jasilionis
Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock
Phone: +49 381 2081-193

Email: jasilionis@demogr.mpg.de


Silvia Leek
Press Department

Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock
Phone: +49 381 2081-143

Email: leek@demogr.mpg.de


Original publication
Domantas JASILIONIS, Vladimir M. SHKOLNIKOV, Evgueni M. ANDREEV, Dmitri A. JDANOV, Denny VÅGERÖ, France MESLÉ, Jacques VALLIN

Do Vanguard Populations Pave the Way towards Higher Life Expectancy for Other Population Groups?

Population-E, 69 (4), 2014, 531-556

Source

Domantas Jasilionis | Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock
Further information:
https://www.mpg.de/9686754/life-expectancy-social-inequality

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New measure for the wellbeing of populations could replace Human Development Index
07.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Because not only arguments count
30.10.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>