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Dissecting the compression of mortality in Switzerland, 1876-2005


  • Siu Lan Karen Cheung

    (University of Hong Kong)

  • Jean-Marie Robine

    (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM))

  • Fred Paccaud

    (Université de Lausanne)

  • Alfio Marazzi

    (Université de Lausanne)


This paper aims to examine changes in common longevity and variability of the adult life span, and attempts to answer whether or not the compression of mortality continues in Switzerland in the years 1876-2005. The results show that the negative relationships between the large increase in the adult modal age at death, observed at least from the 1920s, and the decrease in the standard deviation of the ages at deaths occurring above it, illustrate a significant compression of adult mortality. Typical adult longevity increased by about 10% during the last fifty years in Switzerland, and adult heterogeneity in the age at death decreased in the same proportion. This analysis has not found any evidence suggesting that we are approaching longevity limits in term of modal or even maximum life spans. It ascertains a slowdown in the reduction of adult heterogeneity in longevity, already observed in Japan and other low mortality countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Siu Lan Karen Cheung & Jean-Marie Robine & Fred Paccaud & Alfio Marazzi, 2009. "Dissecting the compression of mortality in Switzerland, 1876-2005," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 21(19), pages 569-598, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:demres:v:21:y:2009:i:19

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. A. R. Thatcher, 1999. "The long-term pattern of adult mortality and the highest attained age," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 162(1), pages 5-43.
    2. John Bongaarts, 2005. "Long-range trends in adult mortality: Models and projection methods," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(1), pages 23-49, February.
    3. repec:cai:popine:popu_p2001_13n1_0156 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. John Wilmoth & Shiro Horiuchi, 1999. "Rectangularization revisited: Variability of age at death within human populations," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 36(4), pages 475-495, November.
    5. Siu Cheung & Jean-Marie Robine & Edward Tu & Graziella Caselli, 2005. "Three dimensions of the survival curve: horizontalization, verticalization, and longevity extension," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(2), pages 243-258, May.
    6. Vladimir Canudas-Romo, 2008. "The modal age at death and the shifting mortality hypothesis," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 19(30), pages 1179-1204, July.
    7. repec:cai:popine:popu_p2001_13n1_0193 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Marie-Pier Bergeron-Boucher & Marcus Ebeling & Vladimir Canudas-Romo, 2015. "Decomposing changes in life expectancy: Compression versus shifting mortality," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 33(14), pages 391-424, September.
    2. Nadine Ouellette & Robert Bourbeau, 2011. "Changes in the age-at-death distribution in four low mortality countries: A nonparametric approach," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 25(19), pages 595-628, September.

    More about this item


    compression of mortality; typical longevity; variability of adult life span;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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