Wiesbaden/London In the industrialized countries, life expectancy has been improving for decades. However, the trend seems to be slowing down now. It looks particularly bad in Germany.
People in Germany are getting older. This is ensured by improvements in medicine, a good health system, but also personal commitment such as nutrition and sports.
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.
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.
The probability of death is developing less favourably
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.
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 rate of improvement 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 the UK 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.
The data represent an “alarming” trend
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.
However, social factors may also play a role: according to the authors, the inequality in mortality between different socio-economic groups has increased in many countries. The higher mortality in socially disadvantaged groups drags overall development down.
The health gap between Germany and 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 disadvantage,” says the mortality researcher.
Main risk factor cardiovascular diseases
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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