Socioeconomic Differences in the Most Common Age at Death: An Analysis by Leading Causes of Death in Finland, 1971–2010

Viorela Diaconu , Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Alyson A. van Raalte, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Pekka Martikainen, University of Helsinki

Few studies have used the modal age at death (M) to monitor socioeconomic differences in old-age mortality and, to date, none have investigated how these disparities evolved over time or by cause of death. This paper examines trends in all-cause and cause-specific M by occupational class in Finland, over 1971 to 2010. The modal age at death was estimated from smooth two-dimensional P-spline density functions. Our analysis revealed that the all-cause M increased at a similar pace for all occupational classes since 1971. However, over time, socioeconomic disparities narrowed for heart diseases, widened for cerebrovascular diseases, colorectal and prostate cancer, and remained stable for lung cancer. Nevertheless, the divergences and convergences in M were smaller than those observed for life expectancy. The overall stability of socioeconomic differences in M provides a fresh perspective to debates about widening mortality inequalities, and contradicts predictions of increasing advantages of the upper classes.

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 Presented in Session 6. Health & Mortality & Aging