European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 163–171 | Cite as

Trends in life expectancy by education in Norway 1961–2009

  • Ólöf Anna SteingrímsdóttirEmail author
  • Øyvind Næss
  • Joakim Oliu Moe
  • Else-Karin Grøholt
  • Dag Steinar Thelle
  • Bjørn Heine Strand
  • Kåre Bævre


Educational attainment and longevity are strongly related. Large population studies covering long periods to provide evidence of trends in educational inequalities regarding life expectancy are scarce though, especially prior to the 1980s. Our objective was to document changes in life expectancy by education in Norway in the period 1961–2009, and to determine whether the patterns differ between sexes. This is a register-based population study of all Norwegian residents over 34 years, with data from the National Central Population Registry and the National Education Database. For each calendar year during 1961–2009, death rates by 1 year age groups were calculated separately for each sex and three educational categories (primary, secondary and tertiary). Annual life tables were used to calculate life expectancy at age 35 (e 35 ) and survival probability for the three age-intervals 35–44, 45–64, and 65–90. All education groups increased their e 35 over time, but inequalities in e 35 between tertiary and primary educational categories widened 5.3 years for men and 3.2 years for women during the study period. The probability for women with primary education to survive to age 64 did not improve from 1961 to 2009. The gain in life expectancy lagged about 10 years in lower compared to higher education groups which might suggest that improvements in life sustaining factors reach different segments of the population at different times. The widening of the gap seems to have partly tapered off over the last two decades, and the changes in life expectancy should be followed carefully in the future to document the development.


Trend Life expectancy Survival probability Education Inequalities 



We would like to thank Statistics Norway for providing us with data and Cassie Trewin for language editing and valuable comments on the manuscript. This study was funded by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Oslo and approved by the Norwegian Data Inspectorate. The funders had no role in the study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data; writing of the report; or the decision to submit the article for publication.

Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Data linkage was approved by the Norwegian Data Inspectorate and data handling was approved by the Norwegian Directorate of Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ólöf Anna Steingrímsdóttir
    • 1
    Email author
  • Øyvind Næss
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joakim Oliu Moe
    • 2
  • Else-Karin Grøholt
    • 1
  • Dag Steinar Thelle
    • 3
  • Bjørn Heine Strand
    • 1
  • Kåre Bævre
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of EpidemiologyNorwegian Institute of Public HealthOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Health Management and Health Economics, Institute of Health and SocietyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Biostatistics, Institute of Basic Medical SciencesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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