Loss of life expectancy derived from a standardized mortality ratio in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden

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Aims: The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) is a widely used measure. A recent methodological study provided an accurate approximate relationship between an SMR and difference in lifetime expectancies. This study examines the usefulness of the theoretical relationship, when comparing historic mortality data in four Scandinavian populations. Methods: For Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, data on mortality every fifth year in the period 1950 to 2010 were obtained. Using 1980 as the reference year, SMRs and difference in life expectancy were calculated. The assumptions behind the theoretical relationship were examined graphically. The theoretical relationship predicts a linear association with a slope, K, between log(SMR) and difference in life expectancies, and the theoretical prediction and calculated differences in lifetime expectancies were compared. We examined the linear association both for life expectancy at birth and at age 30. All analyses were done for females, males and the total population. Results: The approximate relationship provided accurate predictions of actual differences in lifetime expectancies. The accuracy of the predictions was better when age was restricted to above 30, and improved if the changes in mortality rate were close to a proportional change. Slopes of the linear relationship were generally around 9 for females and 10 for males. Conclusions: The theoretically derived relationship between SMR and difference in life expectancies provides an accurate prediction for comparing populations with approximately proportional differences in mortality, and was relatively robust. The relationship may provide a useful prediction of differences in lifetime expectancies, which can be more readily communicated and understood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1403494817749050
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Pages (from-to)767-773
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Gompertz distribution
  • Journal Article
  • SMR
  • life expectancy
  • standardized mortality ratio


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