Economic antecedents of mortality among the very old

Epidemiology. 2002 Mar;13(2):133-7. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200203000-00006.


Background: The 140-year trend of increased longevity in the developed world continues with no end in sight. Much of this trend has been attributed to mechanisms in which the benefits of economic growth act on the young. No attempts have been made to reconcile these theories with the experience of the very old.

Methods: Using Swedish data for the years 1861 through 1999, I examine the relationship between manufacturing wages and the odds of dying among persons 90-94 years of age.

Results: The findings imply that the odds of death among persons 90-94 years of age in Sweden for the years 1862 through 1999 declined about 0.1319 with every 1% increase in wages paid to mining and manufacturing workers. The median percentage increase in wages, 4.6%, therefore implies a decrease of 0.6% in the odds of mortality.

Conclusions: The discovered effect supports the notion that increases in wealth have contributed to decreasing mortality among the very old over the last century and a half. The findings imply that theories focusing entirely on the young cannot fully account for increased life expectancy in populations with growing fractions of the elderly.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Life Expectancy* / trends
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Mortality* / trends
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • Starvation
  • Sweden / epidemiology