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Life Expectancy Improvements Are Slowing – Why? OECD Paper

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in February 2019 released a new paper, titled “Trends in life expectancy in EU and other OECD countries” that reports on trends in life expectancy in the 28 EU countries and some other high-income OECD countries, and examines potential explanations for the slowdown in improvements in recent years.

The slowing of improvements, which has been measured since 2011, has been greatest in the USA, where life expectancy has fallen in recent years.

The pace of mortality improvement has slowed in several EU countries and Australia and Canada since 2011 with the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Netherlands where slowdowns have been particularly sharp.

The major contributors include diseases of old age: cardiovascular (CVD) disease mortality has increased in many countries, as well as respiratory diseases, including influenza and pneumonia, which have claimed excess lives in some winters, and deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are rising.

In some countries, notably the USA and the UK, mortality improvements have also slowed or even reversed among working-age adults because of the rising numbers dying from drug-related accidental poisoning.

It is unclear whether the current slowdown in mortality improvements in some EU countries and the USA is a long-term trend or not, whether the slowdown in major killers such as CVD will persist, and whether or not the excess winter mortality seen in some years becomes a regular feature given population aging and increasing numbers of frail, older people.

It says that the timely and effective monitoring and investigation of mortality trends, including through international collaboration where possible, can facilitate early implementation of remedial strategies.

A full version of the OECD report can be downloaded here.

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