Background Method

2 Data: Population and Deaths

Quantitative data for our analysis is mainly derived from two sources from Statistics Canada [33]: the Canadian Censuses provide population counts by sex and age and the Annual Vital Statistics provide deaths by sex, age, and year of birth.


2.1 Population

We obtained unpublished population data from the Canadian censuses from 1971 to 1991, with details on population up to 121 years old by single year of age and sex, against which to evaluate and compare our estimated population. On the whole, Statistics Canada’s published population counts are of a high quality. When it comes to the elderly and very elderly population, however, certain problems of coverage and of age and birth date declarations emerge. We will broach these problems in detail in the course of our presentation of results.


2.2 Deaths

Data on deaths were obtained from the Health Statistics Division of Statistics Canada for the calendar years 1951 to 1995 by sex, single year of age (up to 119 years old), and year of birth. Deaths are organized by individual triangles of the Lexis diagram. This classification of deaths is essential when applying Vincent’s method of extinct generations [38] to the reconstitution of the population at advanced ages. It is generally recognized that the quality of vital statistics declarations of deaths at advanced ages is superior to that of census declarations. Nevertheless, registration of deaths can suffer from the overestimation of age at death, and from age and generation heaping. Moreover, men have a greater tendency than women to overestimate their age [22]. Overestimating age at death leads to an underestimation of mortality at advanced ages. As numbers of individuals decrease rapidly at extreme ages, this overestimation has a more marked effect, exaggerating the size of the denominator used to calculate mortality rates [7].

To give an idea of the importance of the oldest-old in Canada, there were 2.12 millions deaths of persons aged 80 and over, between 1951 and 1995. More women than men died at these old ages: 1 171 707 women (55%) and 947 453 men (45%). Among deaths over the age of 80, 81% of men were aged between 80 and 89 compared to 72 % for women. Deaths of centenarians were 5 471 for men and 16 010 for women and for the super-centenarians (110 +), we count 29 male deaths and 65 female deaths.


Background Method

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Mortality Statistics for the Oldest-Old: An Evaluation of Canadian Data
Robert Bourbeau and André Lebel
© 2000 Max-Planck-Gesellschaft ISSN 1435-9871