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Karla Gärtner (2002)

Differential Mortality – Results of the Life Expectancy Survey*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 27, 2/2002, p. 185-211, Opladen: Verlag Leske + Budrich, ISSN: 0340-2398

In 1998, the Federal Institute for Population Research commissioned I+G Gesundheitsforschung GmbH (formerly: Infratest Epidemiologie und Gesundheitsforschung) to undertake a survey in the context of its project entitled "Lifestyles and their influence on health and life expectancy" which was carried out in Germany under the title of "Life + Health in Germany". It was using this name that the first National Health Survey, which ran from 1984 to 1986, made a major contribution towards the German Heart-Circulation Prevention Study. Additional surveys took place in later years on this group of topics, with for the first time the participation of the new Federal Länder in 1991/92. These are all cross-section surveys, each of which is based on a new representative random sample, and in some cases medical examinations were also carried out.

The Institute however does not work in the medical area, which is why the new survey was to be given a different focus. Based on previous results of mortality research, and on questions as to the health situation of a population which is becoming ever older, the emphasis was to be placed on factors which may influence life expectancy in general terms, but specifically also on "life expectancy in health", so-called "active life expectancy". For this reason, the possibility that was offered to implement the Institute's survey as a repeat survey of the persons involved in the previous surveys was willingly accepted. For Western Germany, the survey of 1984/86 was selected as a basis for this since the number of respondents was the largest here, and because of the relatively long time that had elapsed, making it possible to obtain sufficient information on those who had already passed away.

The survey of 1991/92 was used as a basis for Eastern Germany. Owing to the foci of the Institute's survey, the initial questionnaires were somewhat altered, with purely medical details removed and replaced by questions on the general and family situation. Furthermore, respondents were restricted to those born in 1952 and earlier.

Three groups were formed for the present article: Those who had passed away at the time of the second survey, those who were asked again, and those who for a variety of reasons were unable or unwilling to participate in the second survey wave. These three groups were compared for their socio-demographic characteristics, health-related conduct and some information as to their own health. It was revealed that those who had passed away showed the worst values in all characteristics that were investigated in the first survey wave. This applies both to social affinity (e.g. a greater proportion of lower school qualifications) and to conduct (e.g. highest proportion of smokers) and health indicators (highest health burden or highest proportion of negative estimation of state of health).

The best values in each case were achieved by the persons who took part in the survey a second time. Those who were asked only once ranked in a medium position, although differences may arise as to the type of refusal. No such differentiation was however made at this point since the main focus was on those who had passed away.

* Original title: Differentielle Sterblichkeit – Ergebnisse des Lebenserwartungssurveys (full text in German only)

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