Volume 39 - Article 21 | Pages 635–646  

Cause-specific mortality as a sentinel indicator of current socioeconomic conditions in Italy

By Elisabetta Barbi, Oliviero Casacchia, Filomena Racioppi


Background: In the last few years the need for disaggregated statistics at small territorial levels to monitor the social and economic conditions of the various areas of a country has increased considerably. The question of how to define these indicators has been the topic of a recent international debate.

Objective: This study aims to assess whether simple, widely available demographic indexes, like mortality measures, may serve as sentinel indicators of economic development and social wellbeing in Italy.

Methods: We analyse and compare the geographical patterns of the infant mortality rate and of the mortality rates for leading causes of death with the spatial pattern found for a more complex index, the vulnerability index, recently introduced by the Italian National Institute for Statistics at the provincial level in contemporary Italy.

Results: Mortality from leading causes of death such as diseases of the circulatory system, and mortality from increasingly emergent causes of death such as diabetes, may offer a valid statistic to grasp economic development and social wellbeing in Italy today.

Conclusions: Our findings are important because policymakers need to rely on indicators with the following fundamental properties: easy availability, clear definition, temporal continuity, and spatial comparability.

Contribution: This study contributes to the literature by showing that mortality data is a straightforward and powerful tool to help policymakers plan appropriate interventions.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Italy: Delayed adaptation of social institutions to changes in family behaviour
Volume 19 - Article 19

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Decomposition analysis of disparities in infant mortality rates across 27 US states
Volume 50 - Article 40    | Keywords: decomposition, health disparities, infant mortality, United States of America

Differences in mortality before retirement: The role of living arrangements and marital status in Denmark
Volume 50 - Article 20    | Keywords: inequalities, living arrangements, marital status, mortality, retirement

Gender and educational inequalities in disability-free life expectancy among older adults living in Italian regions
Volume 47 - Article 29    | Keywords: disability, gender, health, inequalities, Italy, mortality, older adults, regions

Exploring the mortality advantage of Jewish neighbourhoods in mid-19th century Amsterdam
Volume 46 - Article 25    | Keywords: 19th century, Amsterdam, cause-specific mortality, historical demography, inequality, Jewish neighborhoods

Do tenants suffer from status syndrome? Homeownership, norms, and suicide in Belgium
Volume 46 - Article 16    | Keywords: housing tenure, inequalities, life course, mental health, mortality, social norms, socioeconomic disparity, suicide