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“To be or not to be?” mankind has probably raised this question since the first men and women confronted life and death on earth. Will Saturn bring me old age? Though the answer depends upon the gods, the evil spirits, or disease, according to the times, Man has nevertheless sought his future in the leaves of the tea-cup, the palm of one’s hand, the crystal ball, or ... the life table. The history of the life table has been briefly sketched by D. Smith and N. Keyfitz (1977). Though the origins of the “mortality tabl” (as the French say) date back to the classic studies of Graunt, Halley, and Euler, a third century A.D. table of annuities, attributed to Ulpian, bears witness to the interest of the Romans for life annuities and therefore for compiling life experiences. Indeed, life tables are a subject of interest not only for demographers but also for actuaries and epidemiologists. The study of the extinction of a group of “lives” forms an important domain of insurance theory, and the construction of the life table is described in all actuarial books dealing with life insurance; for a recent example, see F.E. De Vylder (1997). Even if nowadays non-life insurance problems dominate actuarial theory, life contingencies still form the backbone of the insurance business. Life tables are also considered in epidemiology; see e.g. the textbook by J. Estève et al. (1993). Epidemiologists are however more interested in measuring the incidence and prevalence of diseases, and determining possible risk factors of morbidity and mortality, than in evaluating the mortality of the general population. As a corollary, epidemiology draws its data more from special surveys and registers, such as longitudinal heart studies or cancer registries, than from general population statistics such as vital registration and census.
KeywordsLife Table Cohort Effect Vital Registration Compete Risk Model Insurance Theory
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