Book Chapter

The changing demographic context of aging

Rau, R., Vaupel, J. W.
In: Kirkwood, T. B. L., Cooper, C. L. (Eds.): Wellbeing in later life, 2–21
Wellbeing: a complete reference guide 4
Chichester, Wiley (2014)


Life expectancy has been increasing in many Western countries for more than 160 years. This chapter concentrates on the last 50 years since those decades coincide with a paradigm shift: death rates are decreasing at ages where mortality was oftentimes considered to be fixed. Death rates at age 80, for instance, were cut by 50% in many countries in less than 50 years. We show that this decrease over time is caused by postponing mortality and not by slowing down the rate of aging. The level of mortality experienced, for example, at age 60 in 1950 among French women is now reached at age 73, a shift of 13 years. Our analysis also shows that there are no indications that life expectancy is close to biological upper limits: we find no relationship between current levels of mortality and their rate of decline.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.