An investigation into inequalities in adult lifespan. (English) Zbl 1461.91254

Summary: People in the United Kingdom are living longer than ever but the gap between the shortest and longest lived appears to be increasing. Based on data from the Human Mortality Database, we measure the differences in age between the first 10% of adult deaths and the top 5% of survivors. We find that in the period from 1879 to 1939 this gap steadily closed. We cite evidence that the reduction in inequalities in age at death was due to significant improvements in the health and condition of the population through better housing, sanitation, mass vaccination, occupational health, clearer air, and other public health improvements that disproportionately improved the lives of the poorest in society relative to the wealthiest. Although life expectancy continued to rise after 1950, the inequality gap remained roughly constant and in recent years has started to widen again – more so for men than for women. A key difference between pre-1939 and now is that deaths are much more likely to be from chronic rather than infectious diseases or environmental causes. Since chronic disease is often attributable to life choices such as smoking and diet, we maintain that the blame for the widening must be laid increasingly at the door of individual lifestyles rather than ambient risks and hazards.


91G05 Actuarial mathematics
91D20 Mathematical geography and demography
Full Text: DOI Link


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