Changing patterns in mortality in 25 European countries, 1955-1989

Mortality patterns in Europe after 1990 have been extensively analyzed. Such patterns, however, have not been adequately studied for the periods before that. In a recently published study at the International Journal of Public Health, the authors sought to investigate the patterns of mortality between 1955 and 1989 in 25 European countries and the role of economic and political conditions.

The authors used an internationally harmonised dataset and analysed changes in dispersion of mortality as well as changes in the association of mortality with average income and levels of democracy. The main results of this study are summarized below:

– In the years covered by the study period, average all-cause mortality has declined in both men and women; however, the variation between countries has increased.

– The average income has increased substantially, but so did the disparities in it.

– Levels of democracy rose

– At both ends of the study period, all-cause mortality was associated with average income, but on the basis of very different cause-specific patterns: countries with lower incomes had higher mortality from “old” diseases in the early years and higher mortality from “new” diseases at the end.

– Mortality from cardiovascular diseases has been rising during most of the study period in many Central and Eastern European countries.

The results suggest that a widening gap in average income between European countries may have contributed to the widening gap in mortality, particularly between Western Europe and Central and Eastern Europe. Some Western European countries closed the gap with the most advanced countries; however, Central and Eastern European countries experienced a wider mortality gap, probably resulting from economic and political stagnation.


This paper was written by Johan P Mackenbach and Casper WN Looman


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