SOA Measures Mortality ‘Anomaly’ in 2016

The slight decrease in overall mortality during 2016 measured by the Society of Actuaries may seem to run counter to the CDC’s report that life expectancy at birth declined 0.1 years, however both stats are in fact true.

The rate of overall mortality improvement has slowed in the most recent five years, according to the latest mortality table analysis published by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

SOA researchers created and released their latest report to provide insights on the historical levels and emerging trends in U.S. population mortality. The most recently released U.S. population mortality experience from 2016 has been incorporated and added to prior available data to enable analysis of mortality experience over the period 1999 to 2016.

Turning to the fresh cut of the data, SOA finds the overall age adjusted mortality rate for both genders from all causes of death decreased by 0.6% in 2016.

“This decrease in overall mortality may seem to run counter to the CDC’s report that life expectancy at birth declined 0.1 years in 2016,” researchers note. “Generally, a decrease in the mortality rate would be expected to produce an increase in life expectancy. However, both figures are correct. In this respect, 2016 was a somewhat anomalous year.”

SOA researchers explain how, in most years, when age adjusted mortality rates decrease, life expectancy at birth would increase. Conversely, when age adjusted mortality rates increase, life expectancy at birth would decline. This is what occurred in 2015, SOA says, when age adjusted mortality increased by 1.2%, and life expectancy at birth declined by 0.1 years.

“The anomaly that occurred in 2016 is explained by the differing impacts on life expectancy of mortality rate changes of different ages,” according to SOA’s reporting. In 2016, increased mortality rates in the younger and middle ages (mostly due to accidents) reduced life expectancy at birth more than it was extended by mortality improvement at older ages. However, the overall age adjusted mortality rate for the entire U.S. population did decline, by the 0.6% cited above.

According to researchers, the practical outcome here is effectively that the overall decrease of mortality in 2016 reversed the experience of 2015. Mortality improvement in older age groups offset large mortality increases, mostly due to external causes, in middle age groups, SOA notes. All age groups, except ages 15 to 24, had lower mortality in 2016 than 1999.

Additional findings dissect mortality by gender, showing female mortality is lower than male mortality for all causes of death except stroke, which is similar, and for the combination of Alzheimer’s and dementia, which is higher. SOA further finds female-to-male mortality is comparatively much lower for external causes of death (accident, assault, and suicide) than natural causes of death.

The full analysis can be downloaded here.