Scientists wonder: Life expectancy in Germany is rising more slowly

Scientists wonder
Life expectancy in Germany is rising more slowly

In Germany, too, people are getting older. Recently, however, there has been a weakening of the trend compared to other rich countries. The reasons are still puzzling. Researchers suspect that it may have something to do with the increased retirement age.

Improvements in medicine, a good health system, but also personal commitment such as nutrition and sports ensure that people in Germany are getting older. In addition to life expectancy, experts also see this effect in the so-called probability of death: on a scale from 0 to 1, it indicates how high the risk is of dying in a certain year of life. However, new studies show that progress is slowing down.

probability of death

The probability of death indicates how likely it is to die within one year of age. For the calculation, the deaths at the age of one year are set in relation to the living at the beginning of the age. These mortality probabilities are usually also calculated separately for men and women. Death probabilities form the starting point for calculating a life table.

Source: Federal Statistical Office

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

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

“Alarming trend”

This is particularly evident in German women: the average improvement in their probability of death fell from 2.4 percent per year (1991 to 2000) to one percent (2011 to 2017). For German men, the improvement rate has fallen from 2.2 percent to 1.23 percent in the same period since 2011. Germany was one of the worst performers, along with Britain and Taiwan, in terms of measuring average mortality improvements. Of the 21 countries surveyed with comparable living conditions, Germany ranks 18th for women and 20th for men.

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

Other reasons could be: There is more and more diabetes and obesity in industrialized countries, the number of smokers is not decreasing further, the number of people with high cholesterol levels is constant. In addition, there is increasing mortality as a result of dementia and Alzheimer’s. But social factors may also play a role: according to the authors, the difference in mortality rates between different socio-economic groups has increased in many countries. The higher mortality in socially disadvantaged groups drags overall development down.

“Health Gap” to other countries

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-term health gap between more successful countries and Germany”.

According to Grigoriev, the Germans’ “life expectancy disadvantage” is primarily due to one demographic group: the age group just before retirement age (55-64). “This group and the 65+ group contribute the most to the disadvantage,” says the mortality researcher. According to Grigoriev, the main factor for the difference between Germany and other high-income countries is cardiovascular disease. This can be clearly seen from data on causes of death and demographic methods.

However, one can only speculate as to why this is so. “The problem probably lies in the insufficient basic medical care and disease prevention.” The situation is actually good: Germany has a strong economy, generous social security and a well-equipped healthcare system. “It’s really amazing why Germany is doing so poorly given numerous advantages.”

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