Causes of Death among the Oldest-Old: Validity and Comparability

  • France Meslé
Part of the International Studies in Population book series (ISIP, volume 4)

Studies of the causes of death among the oldest-old are uncommon. And yet declining mortality means that the number of deaths at these ages is increasing all the time. Just after the Second World War, 36% of deaths in France occurred after age 75 and only 9% at over 85 years. In 1996, 56% of deaths occurred at over 75 years, and of these 33% were after age 85. Nearly half (46%) of all French female deaths occur at age 85+. Many of the readily available mortality statistics do not distinguish causes of death beyond age 85. The WHOdatabase containing the cause of death series for all the countries for which statistics are available, combines all deaths at over 85 in a single age group (85 and over). Several reasons exist for this manifest indifference to a knowledge of causes of death among the oldest-old. One is that beyond a certain age death is seen as so inevitable that even health professionals do not perceive identification of its exact cause as a priority. Yet the highly favourable trend in mortality at advanced ages since the 1970s is probably due in part to changing attitudes among the medical profession towards these old people. The recognition that a person over 70 could suffer from known and treatable pathologies was in fact the prelude to a reduction in mortality at these ages.


Cancer Mortality Multiple Correspondence Analysis Lung Cancer Mortality Mortality Trend Death Statistic 
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© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • France Meslé
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut National d'Etudes DémographiquesFrance

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