European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 31, Issue 12, pp 1207–1211 | Cite as

Why did Danish women’s life expectancy stagnate? The influence of interwar generations’ smoking behaviour

  • Rune Lindahl-Jacobsen
  • Jim Oeppen
  • Silvia Rizzi
  • Sören Möller
  • Virginia Zarulli
  • Kaare Christensen
  • James W. Vaupel


The general health status of a population changes over time, generally in a positive direction. Some generations experience more unfavourable conditions than others. The health of Danish women in the interwar generations is an example of such a phenomenon. The stagnation in their life expectancy between 1977 and 1995 is thought to be related to their smoking behaviour. So far, no study has measured the absolute effect of smoking on the mortality of the interwar generations of Danish women and thus the stagnation in Danish women’s life expectancy. We applied a method to estimate age-specific smoking-attributable number of deaths to examine the effect of smoking on the trends in partial life expectancy of Danish women between age 50 and 85 from 1950 to 2012. We compared these trends to those for women in Sweden, where there was no similar stagnation in life expectancy. When smoking-attributable mortality was excluded, the gap in partial life expectancy at age 50 between Swedish and Danish women diminished substantially. The effect was most pronounced in the interwar generations. The major reason for the stagnation in Danish women’s partial life expectancy at age 50 was found to be smoking-related mortality in the interwar generations.


Life expectancy Smoking Interwar Danish women Cohort effects Age decomposition Mortality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of AgingUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense CDenmark
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Demographic ResearchRostockGermany
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Genetics and Department of Clinical Biochemistry and PharmacologyOdense University HospitalOdense CDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and BiodemographyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense CDenmark
  5. 5.Duke University Population Research InstituteDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  6. 6.OPEN - Odense Patient data Explorative NetworkDepartment of Clinical Research, University of Southern DenmarkOdense CDenmark

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