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Trends in Life Expectancy by Income and the Role of Specific Causes of Death

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Economica / NEW SERIES

Published online on


This study explores how life expectancy at age 35 has evolved across the income distribution in Sweden over time. We examine individual income for men 1970–2007 and family income for both men and women 1980–2007. During this period, income inequality increased in most western countries, but especially so in Sweden. Drawing on a large sample of the Swedish population, our results show that the gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest fifths of the income distribution also increased. This was the case both for individual and family income. The increase was larger for men than for women, but the only group with stagnant life expectancy at age 35 was women in the lowest income quintile group. Between 1986 and 2007, the difference between the lowest and highest family income quintiles increased by about one year for women and by almost two years for men. The causes of death that most significantly contributed to the increased disparities among women were circulatory and respiratory diseases. For men, circulatory disease mortality alone caused most of the increased disparities.