Forecasting future socio-economic inequalities in longevity: the impact of lifestyle ‘epidemics’

Inequalities in mortality and life expectancy between socio-economic groups are a persistent challenge for society, but how they will, realistically, further develop is unknown. Currently, our understanding of the determinants of past trends in socio-economic mortality inequalities is insufficient to enable us to fully grasp past trends, and to accurately predict future trends.

Lifestyle is known to contribute substantially to socio-economic mortality inequalities. Smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption are not only the most important preventable risk factors of mortality in Europe, their prevalence and associated mortality are currently higher among people with low than with high socio-economic status. However, the distinct time dynamic of lifestyle factors has been largely neglected. Lifestyle factors generally developed over time as wave-shaped epidemics, with their prevalence and associated mortality increasing strongly, and then (eventually) declining. The smoking, obesity, and alcohol ‘epidemics’ occurred relatively late among those with low socio-economic status, but their effects on members of this group were greater.

In this research project we aim to estimate future socio-economic longevity inequalities in Europe, and to assess the responsiveness of future socio-economic longevity inequalities to policy measures. We will do so by developing an advanced forecasting model for longevity inequalities based on to-be-generated insights into the impact of smoking, obesity, and alcohol.

This research project is funded by a VICI grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).


Prof. Dr. A.E. (Anton) Kunst (AMC-UvA, Amsterdam)

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