US Life Expectancy Stalls Due to Mortality in Retirement Ages

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Research shows that the increase in mortality among people over 65 is the driving force

Life expectancy in the US has not increased since 2010, after decades of steady increases. Meanwhile, most other countries have continued to experience improvements in life expectancy. Previous research has suggested that the US’s poor performance is due to high mortality among its working-age population. New research shows that the main reason for stagnant life expectancy is high mortality at retirement age. This has serious consequences for life expectancy in the United States.

In the current study, researchers from Tufts University, Medford (USA), the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock (Germany) and the University of Texas Medical Branch (USA) investigated why life expectancy in the US is not as high is increasing as strongly as in other countries and which age groups are responsible for this. Using data from the Human Mortality Database, they evaluated annual mortality rates in the US for the years 2000 to 2019, by gender and age group. The researchers compared 2000 with 2009 and 2010 with 2019. For the period 2010 to 2019, they also calculated what life expectancy would hypothetically have been if age-specific mortality rates had continued to rise as in previous years.

The study provides evidence that the 65+ age group has played a key role in the stagnation of life expectancy in the United States since 2010. “Much of the research on U.S. mortality has focused on working-age adults. This is because deaths from drug overdose, addiction and suicide, as well as heart and metabolic diseases, rise sharply in middle age. In our research, we show that mortality trends from age 65 onwards play a greater role in the stagnation in life expectancy, as well as in excess mortality and years of life lost in 2019. Our findings suggest that the US faces a ‘double jeopardy’ due to both mortality trends in middle age and old age, the latter being more severe,” says Mikko Myrskylä, director of MPIDR.

The figure shows real and counterfactual life expectancy at age 25 for the years 2000 through 2019.


The figure shows real and counterfactual life expectancy at age 25 for the years 2000 through 2019.


Currently, research and policy in the US are primarily focused on the opioid epidemic and related deaths. Uncovering the impact of mortality in old age has far-reaching policy implications. “It is clear that the same causes that lead to an increase in mortality in working age also contribute to an increase in mortality in old age. However, health-related causes such as cardiovascular disease are more important in the elderly. They are a major cause of the stagnation in life expectancy in the United States. About two-thirds of these deaths occur after the age of 75. Risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes may play a key role,” said Leah Abrams, the lead author of the study. Lack of access to good medical care is another factor that can significantly shorten the life expectancy of the elderly.

“To ensure that life expectancy increases as rapidly in the future as it has in the past, the causes of increased mortality after the age of 65 must be better understood and addressed. Future research should specifically compare causes of death with the factors that precede them. contribute to adverse mortality trends in working age and old age,” said Neil Mehta, co-author of the study.

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The data used in this analysis is publicly available through the Human Mortality Database. Code and documentation are available here.

/Public publication. This material from the original organization/author(s) may be contemporary in nature and has been edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News takes no institutional positions or parties, and all views, opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s). View the full document here.

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