Ten Years after Kannisto: Further Evidence for Mortality Decline at Advanced Ages in Developed Countries

Roland Rau, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Eugeny Soroko, Russian Academy of Sciences
Domantas Jasilionis, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
James W. Vaupel, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Väinö Kannisto showed convincingly in the mid-1990s that mortality is decreasing remarkably for people at advanced ages since the 1950s and especially since the 1970s. His calculations were based on data until about 1990. Since then 10 more years of data are available. Using the "Kannisto-Thatcher-Database" on old-age mortality, we studied whether, for women and men above 80, this progress continued during the 1990s. Mortality levels for women and men continue to decrease without any signs of slowing since Kannisto's calculations. By estimating average annual improvements in mortality, we show that the pace in survival improvements even accelerated during the 1990s in comparison to the 1980s. If mortality rates were now close to a biological minimum, we should expect a slower decrease for countries with the highest life expectancy. We discovered, however, that in those countries average annual improvements are larger than in other developed countries.

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Presented in Session 20: Death: Trends, Distributions, Inequality