Monday 25 March 2019

Research sees spike in female mortality since the recession

Prof Jan Rigby found life expectancy has fallen
Prof Jan Rigby found life expectancy has fallen

Lynne Kelleher

Older Irish women are dying at a higher rate since the recession than anticipated under long-term life expectancy rates.

A new study has found there has been a spike in the death rates of women in the 10-year age bracket of 65 to 74 between 2014 and 2016.

In 2016, over 10pc more women in this age group than expected died, while the figure for their male counterparts was just over 5pc.

The research paper, published in this month's Irish Medical Journal, examined the mortality rates between 1986 and 2008 when the global recession hit, and measured them against Irish death rates of people aged from 65 to 84 during the five-year period from 2011 to 2016.

The authors, Professor Danny Dorling, from the University of Oxford, and Professor Jan Rigby, from Maynooth University, investigated 82,707 deaths between the ages of 65 and 84 between 2011 and 2016.

They concluded that 1,723, or just over 2pc of the men and women, died earlier than would have been predicted under the 20-year life expectancy patterns from before the recession.

"Since 2014, it's the female 65- to 74-year age group that has seen significantly more deaths than we would expect in [terms of] patterns of life expectancy," said Professor Rigby.

"We would have expected fewer deaths if those long-term trends had carried on."

The research paper titled 'Recession, Austerity and Life Expectancy' has probed the effects of the global financial crash and the austerity policies that were introduced across Europe in the aftermath.

The paper revealed that life expectancy in some areas of England has fallen by more than one year since 2011 -which was described as "an extraordinary reversal" - while in the USA life expectancy has now been falling for at least two years.

In Ireland, life expectancy at 65 has continued to increase, but has slowed substantially from a gain of three years between 1995 and 2005 to 1.9 years between 2005 and 2015 for men and from 2.6 years down to 1.2 years for women.

The research paper examined life expectancy in 10 western European countries from 1993-2015 and found rates in Ireland, Sweden and Denmark had stalled.

The rates in the UK, Germany, France, Greece and Spain are falling while Norway and Finland are continuing to see life expectancy rise.

Professor Rigby said there had been a noticeable change in the trends of life expectancy across Europe since the crash in 2008.

"With life expectancy you normally expect it to increase about two years every 10 years and this has been going on since the 1950s, so it is a long, long-term trend and all of a sudden in this period for some countries things have started to change.

"It's dramatic in the UK because their life expectancy has actually fallen as it has in the US."

She said in Ireland life expectancy rates are "slowing down much more than we would expect".

Professor Rigby said the higher rate of deaths of Irish women in the age group of 65 to 74 would have had an impact on the overall life expectancy rates of the nation.

"It certainly made a major contribution to the slowing down in life expectancy.

"Whatever normally happens with events like the economic crash you wouldn't expect that to reflect in death rates instantly - it would be further down the line.

"I think where Ireland did well is it maintained old age pensions and it didn't do what the UK did in terms of the social care budget. It has certainly slowed down, we don't know which way it's going to go."

Sunday Independent

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