Volume 50 - Article 20 | Pages 515–546  

Differences in mortality before retirement: The role of living arrangements and marital status in Denmark

By Serena Vigezzi, Cosmo Strozza


Background: To make the pension system robust to population ageing, Denmark will increase the statutory retirement age in tandem with national life expectancy. By universally increasing this age, this pension indexation policy might amplify known inequalities in mortality, such as those between people in different living arrangements.

Objective: We aim to quantify inequalities in mortality before retirement age by living arrangement over time and to estimate whether an increase in the retirement age could disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups.

Methods: We estimate the probability of dying between ages 50 and 65/67/70 for several cohorts of Danes living in different household types, stratifying by socioeconomic status. To give a more complete picture, we also calculate equivalent age for each sub-group.

Results: In Denmark considerable mortality inequalities exist depending on living arrangements, and they are becoming larger. Across all the dimensions of mortality we examine, single individuals cumulate a clear disadvantage. An increased retirement age would increase absolute and (for single individuals) relative differences in pre-retirement survival, adding to the widening trends across cohorts.

Conclusions: Relying on the national average to set the statutory retirement age risks maintaining these subpopulations’ disadvantage. While early retirement schemes exist in Denmark, they mostly impact people based on their occupation. We highlight that other characteristics are strongly tied to mortality and should also be considered.

Contribution: This paper falls within a project developed and directed by Jim Vaupel from 2019 until his death. He believed that the Danish pension indexation policy risked unfairly damaging specific groups. The results of this paper show that by neglecting existing and widening inequalities, this might indeed be the case.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Mortality inequalities at retirement age between migrants and non-migrants in Denmark and Sweden
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Ageing and diversity: Inequalities in longevity and health in low-mortality countries
Volume 50 - Article 12

Gender and educational inequalities in disability-free life expectancy among older adults living in Italian regions
Volume 47 - Article 29

Divergent trends in lifespan variation during mortality crises
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