Volume 50 - Article 11 | Pages 325–346  

Longevity à la mode: A discretized derivative tests method for accurate estimation of the adult modal age at death

By Paola Vazquez-Castillo, Marie-Pier Bergeron-Boucher, Trifon Missov


Background: The modal age at death (or mode) is an important indicator of longevity associated with different mortality regularities. Accurate estimates of the mode are essential, but existing methods are not always able to provide them.

Objective: Our objective is to develop a method to estimate the modal age at death, which is purely based on its mathematical properties.

Methods: The mode maximizes the density of the age-at-death distribution. In addition, at the mode, the rate of aging equals the force of mortality. Using these properties, we develop a novel discrete estimation method for the mode, the discretized derivative tests (DDT) method, and compare its outcomes to those of other existing models.

Results: Both the modal age at death and the rate of aging have been increasing since 1960 in low-mortality countries. The DDT method produces close estimates to the ones generated by the P-spline smoothing.

Conclusions: The modal age at death plays a central role in estimating longevity advancement, quantifying mortality postponement, and estimating the rate of aging. The novel DDT method proposed here provides a simple and mathematically based estimation of the modal age at death. The method accounts for the mathematical properties of the mode and is not computationally demanding.

Contribution: Our research was motivated by James W. Vaupel, who wanted to find a way to accurately estimate the mode based on its mathematical properties. This article also expands on some of his last research papers that link the modal age at death for populations to the one for individuals.

Author's Affiliation

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