No improvement in mortality rates in 2012

24 January 2013

The Actuarial Profession has carried out analysis of the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics and found no overall improvement in longevity in England and Wales, in 2012.

The total number of deaths in England and Wales in 2012 was 499,000, some 15,000 more than in 2011.

Put simply, this means that there have been MORE deaths last year than in any of the previous three years. For the combined male and female population, mortality worsened by 1% over the year.  This compares with a 3.8% improvement in 2011. Observers, including policy makers and actuaries, will be interested to see if this trend continues in 2013 or if 2012 proves to be an anomaly year.

Another trend that has continued is that relatively, men continue to experience greater improvements in mortality than women. However, although the mortality ‘gender gap’ has reduced again, it is still significant, and despite the recent data women continue to have higher life expectancy than men.

Gordon Sharp of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries Continuous Mortality Investigation said:

“Mortality rates can vary significantly on a year to year basis and it is important not to read too much into one year’s figures. However, as policy makers continue to look for solutions to the challenges faced by an ageing population, it continues to be important to ensure that mortality figures and trends are properly analysed.”

“Over the last 20 years we have seen unprecedented improvements in mortality rates, particularly for pensioners.  These figures are initial estimates for 2012, and are subject to revision once ONS publish updated population estimates for the year.  So whilst we are able to say that the mortality improvement for 2012 has been close to zero for men (0.2%), and that mortality for women worsened by 2.0%, (which compare with average male and female rates of improvement of 2.8% p.a. and 2.2% p.a. respectively over the 10 years to 2011), it is too early to say if this is a long term trend.

 “This year it is particularly older ages (above 75 for men and above 65 for women) which have seen a worsening of mortality rates, in contrast to recent experience.  ONS last year announced reductions in the estimated numbers of very old people in the population, which is changing estimates of mortality rates at high ages (above 85), but these figures show a genuine worsening of mortality for many of the over-65s.”



Jpeg image of Gordon Sharp available on request.

 Notes to editors:

1.    Actuaries provide commercial, financial and prudential advice on the management of a business’s assets and liabilities, especially where long term management and planning are critical to the success of any business venture. They also advise individuals, and advise on social and public interest issues

2.    Members of the Actuarial Profession have a statutory role in the supervision of pension funds and life insurance companies. They also have a statutory role to provide actuarial opinions for managing agents at Lloyd’s.

3.    The Profession is governed by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. A rigorous examination system is supported by a programme of continuing professional development and a professional code of conduct supports high standards reflecting the significant role of the Profession in society.

4.    The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries is available to provide expert comment to the media on a range of actuarial- related issues, including enterprise risk management, finance and investment, general insurance, health and care, life assurance, mortality, and pensions.

5.    The analysis was carried out by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries Continuous Mortality Investigation which carries out research into mortality and morbidity experience. The CMI regularly publishes highly regarded reports and working papers.

6.    The data and figures quoted all relate to the population of England and Wales. Scottish figures from the General Register Office for Scotland will be issued later this year.

7.    The rates of mortality improvement are calculated by comparing an initial estimate of the mortality rate in 2012 with the mortality rates for 2011 and earlier years (published by ONS).  The main calculations use age-standardised mortality rates covering all ages; age-standardised means that the rates have been adjusted to allow for changes from year to year in the age structure of the population, so that the comparisons are on a like-for-like basis.

8.    The calculation of mortality rates uses data on the number of deaths registered in the year and on the size of the population.  The ONS usually publish ‘final’ data for each calendar year around the middle of the following year.  The initial estimates for 2012 have been based on provisional data for death registrations, issued weekly and monthly throughout the year by ONS, and an estimate of the population size and distribution by age.  This population estimate has been produced by linear extrapolation of the trends seen over the last 5 years.

9.    The methodology used for the initial estimate of mortality rates for 2012 has been tested, using data for 1980 to 2011, and found to be a reliable estimator.  The differences between the estimates of annual all-age mortality improvement rates produced using this method and the ‘final’ published figures all lay in the range plus or minus 0.5%.  Given the initial estimate for 2012 of a worsening of 1.0% for men and women combined, it is therefore likely that the final result will be a worsening in the range of 0.5% to 1.5%.



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