MPIDR Working Paper

Regional hot spots of exceptional longevity in Germany

Scholz, R. D., Kl├╝sener, S.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2012-028, 25 pages (November 2012).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

This working paper has been published. See the link above for further information.

Keywords: Germany, longevity, spatial analysis, spatial distance


In their contributions to the debate on exceptional longevity, several scholars have noted the existence of spatial hot spots, or areas with a high concentration of individuals who have survived to very high ages (e.g. Sardinia in Italy or Okinawa in Japan). However, most of these studies were based on a small number of cases. This study investigates the spatial pattern of exceptional longevity in Germany by place of birth and place of death. We used a large dataset of exceptional longevity that covered all recorded individuals who reached the age of 105 in Germany in the period 1991 to 2002 (N: 1,339). Our research results show that, even in Germany, with its troubled 20th-century past, most of the semi-supercentenarians reached the age of exceptional longevity in the same region in which they were born. The discovery of this highly localised pattern supports the view that an investigation of regional variation in exceptional longevity can produce meaningful results. In our analysis of spatial variation, we were able to detect hot spots of exceptional longevity in Berlin and in north-western Germany. These findings are remarkable, as life expectancy in Germany is currently characterised by a south-north gradient, with the areas of highest life expectancy at birth being located in the south. The observed pattern of exceptional longevity instead reflects the life expectancy at birth pattern in Germany in the early 20th century and to some degree also the current life expectancy at age 80 pattern. Our findings might be interpreted as support to the argument that early and late life conditions might play an important role in explaining spatial variation of exceptional longevity in Germany.