Understanding the rapid increase in life expectancy in South Korea

Am J Public Health. 2010 May;100(5):896-903. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.160341. Epub 2010 Mar 18.


Objectives: We assessed life expectancy increases in the past several decades in South Korea by age and specific causes of death.

Methods: We applied Arriaga's decomposition method to life table data (1970-2005) and mortality statistics (1983-2005) to estimate age- and cause-specific contributions to changes in life expectancy.

Results: Reductions in infant mortality made the largest age-group contribution to the life expectancy increase. Reductions in cardiovascular diseases (particularly stroke and hypertensive diseases) contributed most to longer life expectancy between 1983 and 2005 (30% in males and 28% in females). Lower rates of stomach cancer, liver disease, tuberculosis, and external-cause mortality accounted for 30% of the male and 20% of the female increase in longevity. However, higher mortality from ischemic heart disease, lung and bronchial cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, and suicide offset gains by 10% in both genders.

Conclusions: Rapid increases in life expectancy in South Korea were mostly achieved by reductions in infant mortality and in diseases related to infections and blood pressure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality / trends
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Expectancy / ethnology
  • Life Expectancy / trends*
  • Life Tables
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Young Adult