You are here

Interdisciplinary research in mortality/longevity/morbidity

This call for research closed on 31 August 2010 and the content on this page is for information only

Actuaries have been active in the study of mortality since the earliest days of the profession and it remains an area where actuaries can contribute to the quality of public debate and lead in the development of new thinking.

The ageing population and increasing longevity are welcome evidence of social and health improvements in our society but raise new issues that are of concern to us all. This continues to be an area where the Actuarial Profession can act in the public interest by working with other disciplines, for example in the medical, social sciences and demographic fields. Combining the expertise of actuaries with that from other disciplines will substantially improve our ability to understand mortality and morbidity risk. In 2010, the Profession wishes to move the debate forward by funding external interdisciplinary research in this area up to a total £100,000. We intend this work to build on the platform created by the Mortality Research Steering Committee and to catalyse future research across disciplines that we hope will have a major and far-reaching impact.

Background

With lower inflation and interest rates in recent times, the importance of mortality risk to actuarial practice has increased, just as the difficulties in predicting future mortality have become more apparent. Society as a whole, government, and industry, are all having to deal with an ageing population and increased life expectancy. In 2006 the Actuarial Profession recognised that collaboration with other disciplines offered an opportunity to better understand past, present and future trends and it set-up a multi-disciplinary Mortality Research Steering Group.

The group quickly established the potential benefits of a multidisciplinary approach, particularly in relation to the availability, reliability and granularity of data. An initial scoping study was followed by events which culminated in the successful Joining Forces conference on mortality and longevity held at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh on 21-22 October 2009. This conference brought together leading academics, researchers and practitioners in actuarial and medical science to consider, debate and share knowledge and has created a solid platform for research in this area. The conference reinforced the view that actuaries must link up with and understand the work of others as an input to their work and, crucially, to influence the direction of future research.

The call for research

The Profession would welcome proposals in the three themes underpinning the Joining Forces conference:

I.   Understanding the drivers for change in mortality and longevity, for example:

  • What exactly causes death rates to continue to fall?
  • What is the scope for current trends to continue?
  • Understanding the closing gender gap in mortalit
  • What will be the impact of future medical advances?
  • What would be the impact of future behavioural/social/environmental changes?

II.   How will successive cohorts differ and why

  • Are those now reaching old age in some way different to previous generations in terms of their intrinsic biology and exposure to risk?
  • How will younger generations differ, and why?

III.   How far can the approach to drilling down to individualised risk help in exploring the connections between populations and individuals including the impact on mortality of biological and life style risk factors such as nutrition, exercise, and alcohol consumption?

Areas with immediate practical impact:

  • The development of mortality/morbidity models – this could include new methods or modelling methodologies from other areas of statistics/mathematics/science, incorporating cause of death, the potential for using stochastic models
  • Analysis of alternative datasets e.g. pensioners, different socio-economic groups
  • Modelling and/or projecting different populations (e.g. different geographic regions, different socio-economic groups, migrant populations).

The public interest

Research into mortality and/or morbidity that will help move forward the current debates around:

  • Long term care/the retirement age/healthy ageing
  • The social and financial consequences of changes in mortality/longevity and morbidity
  • The impact of mortality on the economics of pensions: public spending and education.

Awards

Three awards were subsequently made:

  • University of Southampton and Barnett Waddingham LLP - Bayesian Modelling of Mortality Projection Uncertainty
  • Heriot-Watt University - Mortality Models for Multiple Populations using Covariates
  • King’s College London - Genetic risk profiling for common diseases

Dr Gerard Kennedy ASA of the University of Southampton of the research team of himself, Professor Jon Forster, also of the University of Southampton and Mr Neil Robjohns FIA of Barnett Waddingham LLP said: “Mortality projection is of vital importance to the actuarial profession, but is subject to uncertainty, and it is critical that such uncertainty be accurately quantified. Currently, uncertainty quantification, if performed at all, is done within the context of a single mortality projection model. However, there is no universally agreed such model, and fully coherent uncertainty quantification should also account for model uncertainty. Bayesian statistical methodology provides a fully coherent framework for estimation in the presence of model uncertainty, but practical implementation within the context of mortality projection is under-explored, and will form the main focus of our research. Potential benefits of this research would be improved pricing and assessment of risk exposures and capital requirements in respect of longevity risk transactions, greater understanding of and confidence in the quantification of both mortality projection uncertainty and the tail of longevity risk, and improved management of such risk.”

 

Dr Torsten Kleinow of Heriot-Watt University said: "Our project willdevelop new mortality models for multiple populations. These models will be based on covariates; in particular smoking prevalence. Our aims are to refine predictions of mortality rates, and explain differences between mortality rates for different cohorts and populations."

 

Professor Cathryn Lewis of King’s College London said: “Genetic studies have identified genes contributing to the common, complex disorders that confer a major public health burden, such as heart disease and diabetes. This raises the prospect that individual-level genetic screening can be used to identify those at increased risk of such diseases, which will have implications for actuarial practice.  This research proposal will develop statistical models for genetic risk profiling, providing a framework for investigating genetic risks at a population level.”

 

Contact Details

If you have any questions or wish to discuss any aspect of our funding for member-led research please contact the Research and Knowledge Team:

arc@actuaries.org.uk

Filter or search events

Start date
E.g., 28/09/2020
End date
E.g., 28/09/2020

Events calendar

  • Autumn Lecture 2020: Professor Elroy Dimson

    Online webinar
    14 October 2020

    Spaces available

    Many individuals and institutions have a long-term focus, and invest funds for the benefit of future generations. Their strategy should reflect their long horizon. University endowments are one of the oldest classes of institutional investor, and I will present the first study of the management of these endowments over the very long term.

  • GIRO Conference 2020 Webinar Series

    Available to watch globally in November.
    02-13 November 2020
    Spaces available

    This year's GIRO has been re-designed as a virtual conference to offer members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the general insurance field via online webinars. All sessions will be recorded and made available to purchase and re-watch post-event on the IFoA's GI Online Learning Resource area.

  • Life Conference 2020 Webinar Series

    Online
    16 November 2020 - 27 November 2020

    Spaces available

    This year's Life Conference has been re-designed as a virtual conference to offer members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the life insurance field via online webinars. All sessions will be recorded and made available to purchase and re-watch post-event on the IFoA's website.

  • Spaces available

    The webinar will discuss the challenges and opportunities schemes face in evaluating end game options, choosing a target state and understanding the impact this strategic decision could have on member outcomes long after the “end state” is reached. Adolfo, Kevin and Rhian bring over 60 years of experience in the industry and a variety of perspectives as scheme actuary, covenant adviser, trustee, de-risking adviser and insurer.

  • Spaces available

    Cash-flow driven investing is a game-changer for DB pension funds navigating their end-game. Suitable for sponsors who want to reduce risks on their balance sheets. And for trustees, it shifts the focus to providing greater certainty of returns, managing funding level volatility and ensuring they have enough income to pay cash-flow requirements.

  • Spaces available

    The talk will provide an understanding of the priorities and relationships between deficit reduction contributions, in the context of wider scheme funding, and different types of value outflow from the employer based on the working party’s recently published report.