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

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Date received:17 Oct 2017
Date published:26 Sep 2018
Word count:2458
Keywords:cause-specific mortality, inequalities, infant mortality, socioeconomic indicators, vulnerability index


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

Elisabetta Barbi - Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy [Email]
Oliviero Casacchia - Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy [Email]
Filomena Racioppi - Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy [Email]

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