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The sex differential in mortality: a historical comparison of the adult-age pattern of the ratio and the difference

Author

Listed:
  • Oliver Wisser

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • James W. Vaupel

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

Abstract

The ratio (RMR) is the standard measure of sex differentials in mortality. It is commonly known that the RMR was historically small and increased throughout the 20th century. However, numerical properties might account for the trend in the RMR rather than sex differences in risk factors. In this study we examine the age pattern of the absolute difference in male to female mortality rates (DMR) as an alternative measure in a historical context and compare it to the RMR pattern. Whereas the RMR is close to one at every age in the 19th and early 20th century and increases until the present day, the adult age pattern of the DMR is relatively stable throughout the last 150 years. We also found that the DMR is approximately exponentially increasing from age 40 to 90, implying a universal biological force behind sex differentials in mortality. However, interactions between biology, behavior and environment are complicated and have to be considered when interpreting these findings. Moreover, between ages 15 and 40 the DMR declined in the second half of the 20th century, whereas the RMR increased. Hence, the trend in the latter measure is likely to be an artifact of very different mortality regimes between populations. Therefore, we argue that it is necessary to consider both measures when conducting comparative analyses and to be careful in interpreting their time, cross-cultural and age trends, since they can lead to different conclusion about sex specific underlying risk factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver Wisser & James W. Vaupel, 2014. "The sex differential in mortality: a historical comparison of the adult-age pattern of the ratio and the difference," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2014-005, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2014-005
    DOI: 10.4054/MPIDR-WP-2014-005
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    File URL: https://www.demogr.mpg.de/papers/working/wp-2014-005.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2005. "Sex differences in morbidity and mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(2), pages 189-214, May.
    2. J. Pollard, 1988. "On the decomposition of changes in expectation of life and differentials in life expectancy," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 25(2), pages 265-276, May.
    3. Richard Rogers & Bethany Everett & Jarron Onge & Patrick Krueger, 2010. "Social, behavioral, and biological factors, and sex differences in mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(3), pages 555-578, August.
    4. Fred Pampel, 2003. "Declining sex differences in mortality from lung cancer in high-income nations," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(1), pages 45-65, February.
    5. James Vaupel & Kenneth Manton & Eric Stallard, 1979. "The impact of heterogeneity in individual frailty on the dynamics of mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 16(3), pages 439-454, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Magda Malec, 2017. "Redystrybucja wewnÄ…trzpokoleniowa w systemie emerytalnym," Gospodarka Narodowa, Warsaw School of Economics, issue 4, pages 63-81.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    England; Europe; France; Sweden; adult mortality; historical analysis; sex differentials;

    JEL classification:

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

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