Mortality in old age. The epidemiologic transition among elderly in Sweden 1911-2010

Sören Edvinsson, Umeå University

Life expectancy has increased in an enormous way during the last centuries, in Sweden as well as in other countries around the world. Sweden was however one of the forerunners in the development. Much of the early increase in life expectancy was determined by a rapid decline in infant and child mortality. A common assumption has been that further increases will slow down and eventually stop when mortality among the youngest have reached very low and maybe lowest possible levels. The experience from the last century contradicts however such an assumption. Life expectancy has continued to increase but is now mostly driven by declines in mortality among the elderly. In this paper we explore the Swedish epidemiological transition for a hundred year period, 1911-2010. We analyse changes in causes of death of persons 60 years and older. Making such an analysis is however not a straight-forward undertaking and faces the researcher with several challenges related to quality of the available data. The study thus involves an examination on how causes of death were recorded and categorized and what that implies on how old age has been considered in history. The paper investigate if we find an epidemiological transition among the elderly and what causes have contributed most to the decline in old age mortality. Furthermore we analse if we can identify a delay in the ageing process over time through the recorded causes of death.

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Presented in Session 68: Old age health/mortality