New year, new insights

(Jan 9, 2019)

Happy New Year to all our readers!

As it happens, 2018 was an unexpectedly interesting year for longevity, especially for those interested in extreme long life and the mortality rates of the "oldest old".  Gavin blogged last month about the circumstantial evidence suggesting that the world's longest-lived person, Jeanne Calment, may not have been who she claimed to be.  In the same month Saul Justin Newman published two papers on the importance of rare errors in driving apparent mortality patterns at very old ages.  In the second of these two papers, Newman (2018b) reminded readers of the case of Carrie White, who for many years was falsely believed to be a supercentenarian (i.e. someone achieving the age of…

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Tags: supercentenarians, data quality, late-life mortality deceleration

Boundless Confidence?

(Feb 19, 2014)

We've talked repeatedly about a key advantage of statistical models over deterministic ones - specifically, that they provide confidence intervals in addition to a best estimate. These bounds allow us to decide how certain we can be about predictions made by the model (preferably before, say, publishing any conclusions in the national press). Confidence intervals, sadly, seldom influence the headlines. In the past few weeks, we find reports of a life expectancy of 105 for females in part of Cramlington, Northumberland. And more recently there has been excitement around male lifespan outstripping female, most notably by 13 years in Broadfield in Crawley, West Sussex. See related reports here and here.

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Tags: mortality, longevity, data quality

Shifting sands

(May 16, 2011)

In civil engineering, no building can be sounder than the foundation on which it rests.  A similar comment applies to statistical analysis, which is obviously limited by the quality of the underlying data.  This is an issue for mortality projections, too, since these are ideally based on a historical record of good-quality data.

In the case of all-cause mortality rates, the quality of deaths data in the developed world is high.  In England and Wales, for example, the nationwide registration system means that the majority of deaths are recorded within a week of actual occurrence.  Without being flippant, there is never any real doubt as to whether someone is dead or not.  Projections of all-cause mortality rates…

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Tags: cause of death, data quality, mortality projections

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