Trends in life expectancy by education in Norway 1961-2009

Eur J Epidemiol. 2012 Mar;27(3):163-71. doi: 10.1007/s10654-012-9663-0. Epub 2012 Mar 4.


Educational attainment and longevity are strongly related. Large population studies covering long periods to provide evidence of trends in educational inequalities regarding life expectancy are scarce though, especially prior to the 1980s. Our objective was to document changes in life expectancy by education in Norway in the period 1961-2009, and to determine whether the patterns differ between sexes. This is a register-based population study of all Norwegian residents over 34 years, with data from the National Central Population Registry and the National Education Database. For each calendar year during 1961-2009, death rates by 1 year age groups were calculated separately for each sex and three educational categories (primary, secondary and tertiary). Annual life tables were used to calculate life expectancy at age 35 (e ( 35 )) and survival probability for the three age-intervals 35-44, 45-64, and 65-90. All education groups increased their e ( 35 ) over time, but inequalities in e ( 35 ) between tertiary and primary educational categories widened 5.3 years for men and 3.2 years for women during the study period. The probability for women with primary education to survive to age 64 did not improve from 1961 to 2009. The gain in life expectancy lagged about 10 years in lower compared to higher education groups which might suggest that improvements in life sustaining factors reach different segments of the population at different times. The widening of the gap seems to have partly tapered off over the last two decades, and the changes in life expectancy should be followed carefully in the future to document the development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy / trends*
  • Life Tables
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Registries
  • Sex Factors