Period changes in the mortality of older people by socio-demographic characteristics

Adrian Farthing and Emily Grundy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

[Project number 30018]

Given the significant declines in older age mortality over the last 30 years the intention of this study is to examine in which groups in society this change is most notable. The groups would be defined by a number of socio-demographic characteristics (gender, family and household structure) as well as social and environmental factors (housing tenure; material well-being; area deprivation).

By examining mortality outcomes in the population over 65, grouped into five year age bands, the objective is to assess how these socio-demographic and material indicators for mortality risk may have changed over time. The study would look at three periods 1971-6, 1981-6, and 1991-6, with each period divided in two to assess any underlying 'healthy worker effects'. The study would also examine changes in composition to assess overall impact on population mortality, as well as how age-composition may have lead to changes in apparent influence of these factors.

The data is to be analysed through the calculation of an overall mortality rate which is to be compared against those of the different groupings. By the use of Poisson regression models significant associations between the individual variables and mortality can be identified, adjusted for the effects of the other variables.

The study would form the basis of a Masters thesis; and would also act as a prelude to further work since I would hope to apply again to the LS to further develop the work for my PhD. This is due to begin in October 2004, funding for which has already been obtained through the ESRC 1+3 scheme.

The follow up time of the LS provides the means by which these three period comparisons can be made. The longitudinal nature of the LS will also allow some understanding of cohort effects as individuals pass through the different age groups within each successive period.

The study focuses on data which can be extracted from census details. The LS also provides information concerning family and household characteristics - and importantly, since this study concerns the elderly, has information concerning individuals in institutional care.

The size of the LS makes available sufficiently large samples for statistical analysis by sub-group both within age and within the factors under analysis.

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