Mortality at older ages in Germany before and after unification: is the gap closing and for whom?

Gjonca, A., Brockmann, H., Maier, H.

Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie, 32:Supplement 2 (1999)


Over 46.4% of deaths in Germany in 1996 occurred at ages over 80 years. Like the population of most other European countries, the German population is getting older. More people are surviving beyond the age of 80 today than 30 years ago. This paper analyses the changes in mortality at old age in both the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the former Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) before and after unification. The analyses are based on conventional demographic methods, as well as on a new method, which looks at mortality rates with the help of Lexis surfaces. The paper highlights several findings. Mortality at old ages started improving before unification for both the former GDR and FRG populations. After 1990 there was an accelerated improvement in old-age mortality in the former GDR. The increasing mortality gap at old ages between both populations in the eighties has started to narrow in the nineties, in particular among the oldest old (90+). Male mortality is converging faster than female mortality. The final part of the paper focuses on factors that may explain these observed trends in German old-age mortality. Changes in the health-care system, socio-economic conditions and life style factors are discussed as potential determinants of late-age mortality. (AUTHORS)