Increasing longevity and decreasing gender mortality differentials: new perspectives from a study on Italian cohorts

Graziella Caselli, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"
Marco Marsili, Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT)

The first aim of this work is to identify the reasons for the ongoing changes, with reference to the change in cause-of-death model from the cohorts that are gradually entering adult and old age. The final goal is to use the information obtained to predict the mortality of future cohorts. The results may help us understand what are the determinants of future survival patterns, knowledge of which will be useful for identifying the possible spin-offs on the health and social security services in the future. The first analysis of past changes and recent trends in mortality has brought out clearly how the closing of the gap between male and female survival in the last decade is due to the differential decline (stronger for men than women) in all the main causes of death in young and adult age up to 75. In these periods gender differentials tend to be reduced thanks to men having a more favourable dynamic than women for circulatory system and, still more, cancers (Caselli and Egidi, in press). The particular trend in the causes that contribute to closing the gap between the two genders also emphasizes the effect on mortality of the history of the successive cohorts in the course of time: the gap between the cohorts born during or just before the second world war narrowed, as they benefited in the post-war period from a higher level of education, greater wellbeing and, in general, greater attention to more healthy life-styles. These conditions were effective in offsetting some of the risks of death that had most penalized men, but that now are starting to disadvantage women, who have begun to adopt behaviours more similar to men of their age. Analysis of the output of mortality projections can confirm and add new information to these first indications.

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Presented in Session 63: Gender and health