Mortality: “Alarming Trend” in Life Expectancy Among Germans

Science mortality rates

“Alarming trend” in the life expectancy of Germans

Senior couple sitting with their backs to the camera on a bench in an autumn landscape

The probability of death in Germany is developing less favorably than it was a few decades ago

Source: Getty Images

In industrialized countries, life expectancy has been improving for decades. However, this positive development now appears to be weakening: things are going particularly badly in Germany. The researchers cite several possible explanations for this.

V.Here’s the good news: People in Germany are getting old. This is guaranteed by improvements in the field of medicine, a good health system, but also by personal commitment and prevention, for example through nutrition and sport.

In addition to life expectancy, experts also see this effect in the so-called probability of death: on a scale of 0 to 1, it indicates how high the risk of dying is in a given year of life. Now, however, comes the bad news: New studies show progress is slowing.

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Researchers assume that men are generally more susceptible to disease

The older the age, the higher the risk of death on average. To calculate this probability of death, the number of deaths in a cohort is related to the number of people living in that cohort. Life expectancy can then be calculated using so-called mortality tables.

Particularly evident evolution among women

A study by London’s Bayes Business School has now looked at the mortality rates of people between the ages of 50 and 95. The researchers looked at death rate patterns in 21 high-income countries over a 50-year period (1960 to 2010) and compared them with recent data. It has been found that the probability of death is developing less favorably than it was a few decades ago.

This is particularly evident in German women: the average improvement in their probability of death fell from 2.4 percent per year (1991-2000) to one percent (2011-2017). For German men, the improvement rate dropped from 2.2% to 1.23% over the same period since 2011.

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A young woman runs past a blue wall

Germany was one of the worst performers, along with the UK and Taiwan, in measuring average rates of improvement in mortality. Of the 21 countries surveyed with comparable living conditions, Germany ranks 18th for women and 20th for men.

For Steven Haberman, a professor of actuarial science at Bayes Business School, these negative results represent an “alarming trend.” “Was the retirement age raised too quickly? The answer may be yes, “writes Haberman.

Common diseases and social factors as causes?

Other reasons could be: there is more and more diabetes and obesity in industrialized countries, the number of smokers does not drop further, the rate of people with high cholesterol levels is constant. Additionally, there are rising death rates due to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

But social factors could also play a role: according to the authors, the disparity in mortality rates between different socio-economic groups has increased in many countries. The higher mortality in socially disadvantaged groups drags the general development downwards.

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A seriously ill coronary patient is found in the intensive care unit of a hospital (archive image)

According to the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB), Germany has long been a laggard among high-income countries. Pavel Grigoriev, head of the mortality research group, sees a “long-standing health gap between the most successful countries and Germany”.

According to Grigoriev, the “longevity disadvantage” of Germans is mainly due to one demographic group: the age group just before retirement age (55-64). “This group and the group over 65 contribute most to the disadvantage,” says the mortality researcher.

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The young woman stands on one leg in a field

According to Grigoriev, the main difference between Germany and other high-income countries is cardiovascular disease. This can be clearly seen from the data on causes of death and demographic methods. However, one can only speculate as to why this is the case. “Presumably the problem lies in insufficient basic medical care and disease prevention.”

In reality, conditions are good: Germany has a strong economy, generous social security and a well-equipped health system. “It is really baffling why Germany is doing so badly, given the many advantages.”

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