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Marc Luy (2004)

Selected Aspects of Mortality Trends in Germany from 1950 to 2000*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 29, 1/2004, p. 3-62, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

This article analyses in detail trends in mortality in Germany using newly-calculated life tables for each calendar year from 1950 to 2000. As to pan-German trends, it is shown that the reduction in mortality over the second half of the 20th Century did not take place in the same way across the various age groups. The greatest progress was made in infant mortality, where the level of 1950 was reduced by more than 90 %. Among those 90 and older, mortality is now roughly 60-70 % of that of the starting year of the analysis. The most important group of causes of death among women and men are diseases of the circulatory system, accounting for roughly half today's deaths. This is followed by cancer, at roughly 20 %, whilst the other groups of causes of death are less significant when taken as a total. After continually developing in different directions, sex-specific differences in mortality have shown a slight drop in recent years. In 2000, women had a roughly six-year advantage in life expectancy at birth, whilst at the beginning of the eighties, male life expectancy was roughly 6.5 years shorter than that of women. In addition to a higher excess male mortality in young and medium adult age shown in each calendar year, men born between 1935 and 1955 (who were of child and youth age in the post-war era) specifically showed high excess mortality.

The focus of the analyses put forward here lies in the investigation of the differences between the old and the new Federal Länder. It can be observed here that the gap which had opened since the seventies (favouring the West) in West-East mortality differences has been closing successively since the reunification. Among men it is the age groups from 30 upwards which are largely responsible for both developments, and among women those from 50. The age-specific distribution of the mortality differences is hence broader among men, whilst in comparison to women it is less in absolute terms. Among men, however, in the younger and medium adult age groups, higher mortality in Eastern Germany runs against the general trend of the reduction of West-East German mortality differences. It is concluded from these results that period effects are exclusively responsible for all trends.

It does not necessarily make sense to analyse the cause-of-death structure for the time when Germany was divided. After 1990, the greatest contribution to the overall mortality differences between the old and the new Federal Länder, both among women and among men, lay in diseases of the circulatory system. Among men, two more causes of death are added which have a significant influence on the mortality differences between Western and Eastern Germany, namely diseases of the digestive system, and the category of injuries and poisoning, which is largely marked by mortality in road traffic. Surprisingly, the causes of death which can be related to the level of medical-technical supply are unable to explain the rapid decrease in Western-Eastern differences in mortality since reunification.

* Original title: Verschiedene Aspekte der Sterblichkeitsentwicklung in Deutschland von 1950 bis 2000 (full text in German only)

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