Reverse Gear

(Dec 8, 2015)

Against a background of long-term mortality improvements it is understandable to expect that societal change and developments in health care will be agents of progress. Recent research from Princeton Professor of Economics Anne Case and Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton jolts such complacency in the starkest way. It reveals that since the late nineties, the all-cause mortality improvements experienced by white non-Hispanic Americans in midlife (ages 45 to 54) have not simply slowed, but slammed into reverse.

It quickly becomes clear that this research contains a telling illustration of basis risk. The researchers note that the scale of the effect had been missed since it played out so strongly…

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Tags: longevity, mortality improvements, mortality plasticity, basis risk

A chill wind

(Nov 27, 2015)

In a previous blogs I have looked at seasonal fluctuations in mortality, usually with lower mortality in summer and higher mortality in winter.  The subject of excess winter deaths is back in the news, as the UK experienced heavy mortality in the winter of 2014/15, as demonstrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Excess winter deaths in England & Wales. Source: ONS.

Excess mortality in England & Wales

Figure 1 shows some important features, but some are less immediately obvious than others.  The most obvious feature is that the winter of 2014/15 is indeed the worst for excess winter deaths for fifteen years.  Another obvious feature of Figure 1 is that it is the elderly who bear the overwhelming brunt of excess winter mortality.  However, there is an easily…

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Tags: season, influenza, winter, frailty, mortality plasticity

East meets West

(Nov 23, 2009)

This month sees the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  This is therefore an appropriate time to remind ourselves of a dramatic example of the plasticity of mortality.  This is the ability of mortality rates to change quickly in response to a new environment, particularly decreases in mortality.

The sudden and unexpected reunification of the two halves of Germany in 1989 provided demographers with an interesting sort of social experiment.  As Scholz and Maier (2003) put it:

"Prior to 1945 East and West Germans shared a cultural and historical background that included the political system. Between 1949 and 1989, however, Germans lived under two different political and economic systems:…

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Tags: mortality plasticity, Germany

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