Background: Secular trends in old-age mortality are of crucial importance to population ageing. For the understanding and prediction of these trends, it is important to determine whether birth cohort effects, i.e. long-lasting effects of exposures earlier in life, are important in determining mortality trends up to old age. This study aimed to identify and describe cohort patterns in trends in mortality among the elderly (>60 years of age) in seven European countries. Methods: A standard age-period-cohort analysis was applied to all-cause and cause-specific mortality data by 5-year age groups and sex, for Denmark, England and Wales, Finland, France, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, in the period 1950-99. Results: Cohort patterns were identified in all countries, for both the sexes and virtually all causes of death. They strongly influenced the trends in all-cause mortality among Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian men, and the trends in mortality from infectious diseases, lung cancer (men only), prostate cancer, breast cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). All-cause mortality decline stagnated among Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian male birth cohorts born between 1890 and 1915, among French men born after 1920, and among women from all countries born after 1920. Where all-cause mortality decline stagnated, cohort patterns in mortality from lung cancer, COPD, and to a lesser extent ischaemic heart diseases, were unfavourable as well. For infectious diseases, stomach cancer, and cerebrovascular diseases, mortality increased among cohorts born before 1890, and decreased strongly thereafter. Conclusions: Cohort effects related to factors such as living conditions in childhood and smoking in adulthood were important in determining the recent trends in mortality among the elderly in seven European countries.

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International Journal of Epidemiology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Janssen, F, Kunst, A.E, Barendregt, J.J.M, Bonneux, L.G.A, de Laet, C.E.D, Nusselder, W.J, … Mackenbach, J.P. (2005). Cohort patterns in mortality trends among the elderly in seven European countries, 1950-99. International Journal of Epidemiology, 34(5), 1149–1159. doi:10.1093/ije/dyi123