Journal Article

Occupational differences in mortality and life expectancy persist after retirement and throughout life

Ebeling, M., Ahlbom, A., Gustavsson, P., Modig, K.
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 1–8 (2022)
Open Access


Aims: There are substantial differences in remaining life expectancy at higher ages between occupational groups. These differences may be the effect of work-related exposures, lifestyle factors of workers in specific occupations, socioeconomic position or a combination of this. The scope of this paper is the extent to which occupational differences in remaining life expectancy persist after retirement, which would suggest that occupational exposures alone are not likely to explain all the difference.
Methods: All individuals born between 1925 and 1939 who reported occupational information in the Census 1985 and were residents in Sweden to the end of 2020 or who died were included and followed for death until 2020. The Nordic Classification of Occupations was used to create nine occupational groups. Partial life expectancy and age-specific death rates were applied to examine mortality differentials.
Results: This study showed substantial differences in partial life expectancy across the occupational cohorts with the biggest difference being about 2 years. The mortality differences persisted with increasing age, both when measured as absolute numbers as well as relative numbers.
Conclusions: The lack of convergence in mortality at high ages suggests that factors associated with lifestyle may play a larger role than occupational factors for the mortality differences between occupational groups at high ages. However, it cannot be ruled out that long-lasting effects of earlier occupational exposures also contribute. Regardless of the exact mechanism, we conclude that there is room for further reduction in mortality at high ages and, thus, for further improvement in life expectancy.

Keywords: Sweden, adult mortality, occupational mortality
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.