Journal Article

The relative effects of shocks in early- and later-life conditions on mortality

Myrskylä, M.

Population and Development Review, 36:4, 803-829 (2010)


Keywords: Europe, life cycle, mortality, Pearson's law


The relative importance of cohorts' early-life conditions, compared to later period conditions, on adult and old-age mortality is not known. This article studies how cohort-level mortality depends on shocks in cohorts' early- and later-life (period) conditions. I use cohorts' own mortality as a proxy for the early-life conditions, and define shocks as deviations from trend. Using historical data for five European Countries i find that shocks in early-life conditions are only weakly associated with cohorts' later mortality. This may be because individual-level health is robust to early-life conditions, or because at the cohort level scarring, selection, and immunity cancel each other. Shocks in period conditions, measured as deviations from trend in period child mortality, are strongly and positively correlated with mortality at all older ages. The results suggest that at the cohort level changing period conditions drive mortality variation and change.