Journal Article

Length of life and the pensions of five million retired German men

Shkolnikov, V. M., Scholz, R. D., Jdanov, D. A., Stegmann, M., von Gaudecker, H.-M.

European Journal of Public Health, 18:3, 264-269 (2008)


Background: Socioeconomic differences in old-age mortality have not been studied in Germany. This study fills in the gap, evaluating mortality and life expectancy differentials among retired German men aged 65+ in 2003. Methods: Mortality rates are calculated from the administrative database on all public pensions and deaths of pensioners in 2003. Relative mortality rates and life expectancies are estimated for population subgroups according to the quintiles of lifetime earnings, type of medical insurance, broad occupational group, and residence in eastern or western Germany. Results: Among pension income quintiles, mortality varies by 60% and life expectancy at age 65 ranges from 14.9 to 18.5 years. Quintile-specific mortality and life-expectancy values are only slightly more favorable in western compared to eastern Germany. The mortality of manual workers is by 35% greater than that of salaried employees, while the mortality of those with mandatory public health insurance is 44% greater than the mortality of those with private or voluntary public health insurance. When all four characteristics are taken into account, relative mortality in the group with the highest mortality is three times higher than at the opposite end of the distribution, and corresponding life expectancies are 12.5 and 20 years. Half of all male deaths at ages 65+ are attributable to this variation. The mortality differentials remain significant at ages 80+. Conclusions: Socioeconomic mortality differentials persist into old age. They are similar in both regions and their magnitude is much greater than the diminishing mortality gap between the two parts of the country.