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Mortality Research Steering Committee: priority research areas

One of the main responsibilities of the Mortality Research Steering Committee (MRSC) is to steer the Profession’s research relating to the demographic risks of mortality, morbidity and longevity. We have reviewed what we believe should be the priorities for research activity and have identified six areas.

1. Predicting future population mortality improvement

The IFoA (through the CMI) provides the Mortality Projections Model, which is a world-leading model that smooths recent trends in mortality and blends it into projected long-term mortality improvements. However, there is no equivalent robust and reliable method for deriving plausible population mortality improvement assumptions from more discrete data sources (such as a cause of death data), necessarily supported by subjective judgements. The MRSC wants to see a methodology created that does this, and our current approach is to use a bespoke multiple cause of death dataset provided by the ONS.

The MRSC has undertaken to produce a model that provides a method of deriving plausible population mortality improvement assumptions for the UK general population by looking at data showing deaths by cause, and then considering how these may change in the future as a result of longevity ‘catalysts’. As an initial step to understanding these longevity catalysts and their potential impacts on different cause of death groups, a paper ‘Universe of Longevity Catalysts: Call For Research’ has been written that sets out a universe of material catalysts and which causes of death they are most likely to impact. 

The MRSC steering committee are now looking for the assistance of the actuarial community and its wider contacts to help identify research that can provide evidence to help parameterise the resulting model. We are asking people to read this paper and let us know of any research that has been carried out in the areas identified.

2. Forecasting trends in morbidity

Forecasting morbidity is currently a difficult task, as morbidity trends are complex, influenced by changes in the biological incidence of diseases and affected by changes in diagnostic techniques. We want to improve the understanding of these trends and their interactions to help maintain access to protection products serving a strong consumer need, and also provides richer insights into mortality and longevity trends.

3. Supporting the profession's efforts to resolve the challenge of providing older age care

In recent years the UK population has aged significantly and is expected to continue to age in the future. As a result, the number of people requiring good quality care has increased but the provision of the required care has not met the needs of society. The solutions that the actuarial profession can devise may help to address this issue and the MRSC can contribute to this.

4. Managing risk in products providing longevity protection

The risk management of longevity is still in its infancy and there are a number of aspects that could improve this:

  • Creation of an industry standard definition of all the risks behaviours underlying longevity risk.
  • Development of a method to benchmark the output of different risk models used by individual companies using this standard definition.
  • Identification of new ways to reduce risk using this standard definition to identify the intrinsic and avoidable risks.
  • Consideration of the differing longevity risk exposures of different kinds of beneficiaries

5. Tools and techniques used for analysing portfolio experience

The potential tools and techniques available to actuaries to analyse portfolio experience continue to evolve. Actuaries need to look beyond the traditional methods to decide what might best serve their clients. The following areas would benefit from investigation and communication to the actuarial community:

  • The potential new sources of data that can be used to enhance the assessment of portfolio experience.
  • The increased range of analyses that areas such as data science are bringing to the actuarial toolkit.
  • The assumptions being made by traditional and new techniques, and whether these are reasonable in the uses made by actuaries.
  • The relative advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, technically but also as regards interpretability and ease of implementation.

6. Communication of complex risk behaviours in ways that are easy to understand

Longevity, mortality and morbidity risks are complex and simplistic measures, such as expectations of life, do not provide reliable metrics for non-experts to base decisions upon. New means of communicating this complex behaviour are required that better serve the needs of stakeholders.

We have started to work on advancing the six areas above and we will publish any research and outputs on these areas via the IFoA website.

In October 2019 the MRSC held a Stakeholder Event. This included discussion of the MRSC’s six priority areas as well as discussion of alternative priorities. A summary of the discussions is available on the stakeholder event page.

We would welcome any further feedback or comments on our research priorities. Please let us know any comments at

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Events calendar

  • The Growth Mindset for Actuaries

    13 October 2021 - 8 December 2021

    Fully booked.

    This practical course is aimed at actuaries at any stage of their career who want to develop their own growth mindset and apply it to their work setting and personal or professional lifelong learning. The content of the course builds on the lecture given by Dr Helen Wright on Growth Mindset as part of the President’s 2021 Lecture series, and will be delivered over a period of 2 months, from mid-October to early December.

  • Spaces available

    The role of actuaries within the health sector varies considerably from one country to another, due to differences in the local evolution of health systems and the funding models for health services. 

  • Spaces available

    This paper outlines key frameworks for reserving validation and techniques employed. Many companies lack an embedded reserve validation framework and validation is viewed as piecemeal and unstructured.  The paper outlines a case study demonstrating how successful machine learning techniques will become and then goes on to discuss implications.  The paper explores common validation approaches and their role in enhancing governance and confidence.

  • Spaces available

    Content will be aimed at all actuaries looking to understand the issues surrounding mental health in insurance and in particular those looking to ensure products and processes widen access for, and are most useful to, those experiencing periods of poor mental health.

  • Spaces available

    The IFoA Policy Briefing 'Can we help consumers avoid running out of money in retirement' examined the benefits of blending a lifetime annuity with income drawdown. Panellists, including providers and advisers, will look at the market practicalities of taking the actuarial theory through into the core advice propositions used by IFAs and Fund Managers. They will share a number of practical issues such as investment consequences before and after retirement and the level of annuity that is appropriate and answer questions from the audience.

  • Speech from the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey

    Lincoln's Inn The Treasury Office, London WC2A 3TL
    1 December 2021

    The IFoA is pleased to be hosting the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, to deliver a speech on delivering policyholder protection in insurance regulation.

    The speech will be presented to an in-person audience, and simultaneously live-streamed, at 14.00 on Wednesday 1st December.

  • The Many Faces of Bias

    2 December 2021

    Spaces available

    This webinar looks at the many types of biases, both conscious and unconscious and the impacts they can have in the workplace.  Raising our own awareness and understanding of the issues can help us avoid the pitfalls of unconscious bias in particular.  We’ve all heard the phrase ‘office banter’ but are we sure that’s how those on the receiving end perceive it and is it ok to go along with it?

  • Spaces available

    Actuaries need to take action now - but how?  With a focus on climate change, this session will provide informed insight to enable you to improve your knowledge and understanding of the issues involved, demonstrate how it will impact advice to your clients, and highlight prospective opportunities for actuaries within pensions and wider fields.

  • Spaces available

    Pension scams have become more prevalent as a result of the pandemic, and Trustees have increased responsibilities to protect members, which means that actuaries need to be in a position to provide advice in this area. Our specialist panel will include a professional trustee, an IFA and head administrator, two of whom are members of PASA.

  • Spaces available

    The covid-19 pandemic creates a challenge for actuaries analysing experience data that includes mortality shocks.  To address this we present a methodology for modelling portfolio mortality data that offers local flexibility in the time dimension.  The approach permits the identification of seasonal variation, mortality shocks and late-reported deaths.  The methodology also allows actuaries to measure portfolio-specific mortality improvements.  Results are given for a mature annuity portfolio in the UK

  • Spaces available

    In this webinar, the authors of the 2021 Brian Hey prize winning paper present a new deep learning model called the LocalGLMnet. While deep learning models lead to very competitive regression models, often outperforming classical statistical models such as generalized linear models, the disadvantage is that deep learning solutions are difficult to interpret and explain, and variable selection is not easily possible.

  • Spaces available

    The dominant underwriting approach is a mix between rule-based engines and traditional underwriting. Applications are first assessed by automated rule-based engines which typically are capable of processing only simple applications. The remaining applications are reviewed by underwriters or referred to the reinsurers. This research aims to construct predictive machine learning models for complicated applications that cannot be processed by rule-based engines.

  • Spaces available

    With the Pension Schemes Act 2021 requiring a long term strategy from Trustees and sponsors, choosing a pensions endgame strategy has become even more critical. However, it is important that the endgame options available are adequately assessed before choosing one. With an ever-increasing array of creative and innovative options available, this decision may not be straightforward.