Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 49–71 | Cite as

Age-Specific Variation in Adult Mortality Rates in Developed Countries

  • Hui Zheng
  • Y. Claire Yang
  • Kenneth C. Land


This paper investigates historical changes in both single-year-of-age adult mortality rates and variation of the single-year mortality rates around expected values within age intervals over the past two centuries in 15 developed countries. We apply an integrated hierarchical age-period-cohort—variance function regression model to data from the human mortality database. We find increasing variation of the single-year rates within broader age intervals over the life course for all countries, but the increasing variation slows down at age 90 and then increases again after age 100 for some countries; the variation significantly declined across cohorts born after the early 20th century; and the variation continuously declined over much of the last two centuries but has substantially increased since 1980. Our further analysis finds the recent increases in mortality variation are not due to increasing proportions of older adults in the population, trends in mortality rates, or disproportionate delays in deaths from degenerative and man-made diseases, but rather due to increasing variations in young and middle-age adults.


Mortality rate Mortality variation Hierarchical age-period-cohort—variance function regression model Aging Epidemiologic transition Mortality selection 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the demography workshop at the Population Research Center at the University of Chicago, the 2012 annual meeting of the Population Association of America, May 3–5, San Francisco, CA, and the 2013 Keyfitz symposium on mathematical demography at the Ohio State University. We thank Kathleen Cagney, Michal Engelman, Shiro Horiuchi, Diane Lauderdale, Linda Waite, and Kazuo Yamaguchi for useful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Institute for Population ResearchThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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