Journal Article

The effects of increasing longevity and changing incidence on lifetime risk differentials: a decomposition approach

Ebeling, M., Modig, K., Ahlbom, A., Rau, R.
PLoS One, 13:4, e0195307 (2018)
Open Access


Increasing longevity can distort time trends in summary measures of health and mortality, such as the lifetime risk of getting diseased. If not observing a cohort, this lifetime risk is calculated with cross-sectional data on age-specific incidence and survival. In those instances, incidence and survival may work in opposite directions resulting in lifetime risk estimates where, reductions in incidence might be offset by a simultaneous longevity increase. The proposed method decomposes the difference between two lifetime risks into contributions of changing incidence and changing survival. The approach can be extended to measure the contributions of changes in disease related mortality and even case fatality. We illustrate the method with hypothetical examples as well as remaining lifetime risk at age 60 of experiencing a myocardial infarction, colorectal cancer and hip fractures for Swedish males. The empirical examples show that the influence of increasing longevity on the development of lifetime risk depends on the respective age profile of occurrence. In the cases of myocardial infarction and hip fracture, longevity increases of the general population counterbalanced or even exceeded the substantial gains in disease incidence, while for colorectal cancer, the lifetime risk was almost unaffected by the longevity improvement. This was because colorectal cancer has an on average earlier onset than myocardial infarction and hip fracture.

Keywords: Sweden, disease incidence, longevity
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.