Rectangularization revisited: variability of age at death within human populations

Demography. 1999 Nov;36(4):475-95.


Rectangularization of human survival curves is associated with decreasing variability in the distribution of ages at death. This variability, as measured by the interquartile range of life table ages at death, has decreased from about 65 years to 15 years since 1751 in Sweden. Most of this decline occurred between the 1870s and the 1950s. Since then, variability in age at death has been nearly constant in Sweden, Japan, and the United States, defying predictions of a continuing rectangularization. The United States is characterized by a relatively high degree of variability, compared with both Sweden and Japan. We suggest that the historical compression of mortality may have had significant psychological and behavioral impacts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Life Expectancy
  • Life Tables*
  • Linear Models
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Survival Analysis*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology