Demographic Data

At a Glance Projects Publications Team


Geographical Mortality Disparities at Subnational Level

Conducted by Dmitri A. Jdanov; Domantas Jasilionis, Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, Pavel Grigoriev; in Collaboration with Magali Barbieri (University of California, Berkeley, USA and French National Institute for Demographic Studies, Paris, France), Vladimir Canudas Romo (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Detailed Description

Persisting longevity and mortality disparities between and within countries are considered as the key challenge for longevity sustainability and mortality improvements. Numerous studies highlight a close relationship between higher mortality rates at the national level and pronounced disparities at the subnational level. At the same time, the higher life expectancy at the national level may not immediately lead to low inequalities across regions or districts.

The vast majority of the current relevant research focuses on mortality disparities by socioeconomic status. This is largely related to the political importance of social inequalities. However, spatial dimensions of mortality change are equally important because they can be regarded as principal components of health development at the national level. There are examples where the lack of sustainable mortality improvement across regions led to stagnation in mortality improvement at the national level. In some cases, geographical mortality disparities within countries are much higher than those observed between countries. Monitoring spatial mortality changes at subnational levels provides evidence on region-specific features of health and epidemiological development.

The project has three major aims:

  1. To perform a systematic assessment of the total amount of spatial mortality disparities at the most detailed administrative level for the most recent period, and to analyze long-term trends in mortality variation at the NUTS 1/2 level for selected developed countries.
  2. To create a research network on geographical disparity in mortality and health. The research network will be based on existing collaboration within the Human Mortality Database (HMD) project, and it will include researchers from Germany, the USA, France, Australia, Japan, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Russia, and from some developing countries.
  3. To generate unique coherent datasets on subnational mortality for several countries. This part of the project is a natural extension of the HMD to the subnational level. The new datasets, to become an international data resource, will be constructed using the existing methodological foundations of the HMD, and it will follow the same principles; this includes standardized approaches towards data quality assessment and adjustments, processing, and documentation, using the best-possible country expertise.

 The output of the project will be of interest to the scientific society, international and national statistical agencies, social security, and the health and life insurance industry. The detailed analyses of geographical variations in mortality will provide a baseline for the precise evaluation of health policies and for specific interventions. The comparison of various national experiences in mortality differentials and current health policies will help to identify strategies conducive to health, which in turn could reduce inequalities at national and subnational levels. The set of subnational data series will be distributed following Open Data principles and should generate new research in the area.

Currently, there are four country-specific databases on subnational mortality estimates. These are on:

  1. Australia (
  2. Canada (
  3. Japan (
  4.  United States (

In 2020/2021, a subnational database for Germany will be launched. The German project will also focus on the methodological innovations allowing enhancing the standard Human Mortality Database methods to achieve better comparability of the subnational mortality estimates.

Research Keywords:

Aging, Mortality and Longevity, Data and Surveys

Region keywords:

Australia, Canada, Europe, Germany, Japan, USA


Timonin, S. A.; Jasilionis, D.; Shkolnikov, V. M.; Andreev, E. M.:
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 74:2, 144–150. (2020)    
Papanova, E. K.; Shkolnikov, V. M.; Andreev, E. M.; Timonin, S. A.:
Advances in Gerontology 8:2, 86–95. (2018)
Timonin, S. A.; Danilova, I. A.; Andreev, E. M.; Shkolnikov, V. M.:
European Journal of Population 33:5, 733–763. (2017)    
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.