Inequalities in Life Expectancy Between and Within European Countries

  • Jacques VallinEmail author


The chapter describes diversity in life expectancy observed between and within European countries. It then proposes a possible explanatory thread and, finally, concludes with some speculation on the future of inequalities. Inequalities between countries are approached by focussing on three different perspectives: inequalities in terms of level of life expectancy, inequalities in terms of mortality patterns, and the difference between the highest life expectancy observed at a given time and the life expectancy resulting from a combination of the lowest age-specific mortality rates at the same point in time. Inequalities within countries will then be approached by selecting three criteria of difference: geographical differences, gender differences, and social differences. Trying to find a general explanation for all these different aspects of inequality is quite an impossible challenge. However, it can be helpful to follow one possible main thread to look at fundamental affinities between facts that could have been seen as quite different in nature at the outset. One possible basic idea is to consider that different histories have resulted in the current diversity. It is then useful to review changes in theoretical approaches towards health and mortality change from Omran’s epidemiologic transition theory to the more general health transition theories and, finally, to examine the historical movements of divergence and convergence that can explain the broad international diversity observed today. The next step will then be to discuss whether what seems true for inter-country inequalities can also be true for sub-national differences. Finally, some concluding remarks are made with regard to future perspectives.


Life Expectancy Life Expectancy Increase Health Transition Epidemiologic Transition Central European Country 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus Research DirectorInstitut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED)ParisFrance

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