Health and Mortality
This research group deals with several aspects of health and ageing with a special focus on differentials in mortality and morbidity. These involve differences between women and men, socioeconomic groups, migrants and non-migrants as well as differences between countries or smaller regional units. The aim of these studies is to disentangle the various risk factors and to evaluate their absolute and relative impact on health and mortality, including their variations in different populations and sub-populations. The analyses are based on different data sources including official population statistics, survey data and self-collected data. Additional topics of this research groups comprise technical aspects connected to the available data and methods.
The currently ongoing research projects of this group are:
HEMOX: The male-female health-mortality paradox (ERC Starting Grant project)
From the 1960s to the 1980s a common wisdom about differences between males and females in health and mortality emerged which was summarised by the well-known phrase “women are sicker, but men die quicker”. Recently this wisdom has been increasingly questioned. The purpose of this project is to decisively advance the understanding of the paradox by demonstrating that the reverse relationship between sex on the one side and health and mortality on the other is not as paradoxical as it seems. We hypothesise that two factors are mainly responsible for causing this intuitive contradiction. First, the overall reversal in sex morbidity and sex mortality differentials occurs because conditions that figure importantly in morbidity are not very important in mortality, and vice versa. Second, it is very likely that longevity is directly related to the absolute number of life years in ill health. Thus, women show higher morbidity rates not because they are female but because they are the sex with higher life expectancy. We will test these hypotheses in a “natural experiment” by analysing the relationship between health and mortality among Catholic nuns and monks from Austria and Germany in comparison to women and men of the general population in a longitudinal setting that is as close as one can get to an ideal long-term experiment in humans. HEMOX is a follow-up project of the “Order members mortality study”.
Project website: www.cloisterstudy.eu (currently in German language only)
Contact person: Marc Luy
Living independently at home: a feasibility study about assistive technology for the elderly in Europe based on insights from Japan
The purpose of this project is to examine how feasible assistive technology (assistive robotics, assistive devices etc.) would be in the Austrian/European care context. The use of assistive technologies for the elderly is already culturally accepted in Japan. To get first insights into the specific cultural discourse we investigate how assistive devices are presented in the Japanese media in comparison to European press articles. Then we will explore which assistive technologies for elderly people exist in Japan and which of them are currently implemented to support them living independently at home. Further, the socioeconomic background of the users as a prerequisite for getting access to and using these technologies is elaborated with a special focus on their educational level. The implementation of such a technology requires considering various institutional standards. The research in Japan will give information about this issue as well as to what extent these technologies relieve the health care system as a whole and in particular the caregivers of elderly persons. The results will yield a broader understanding of these technologies and the underlying factors for a possible successful implementation like we learn from Japan.
Contact person: Priska Flandorfer
The echo of Eastern and Western socialisation in the recent trend of cardiovascular diseases: a longitudinal perspective of 15 years reunified Germany
The mortality differences between Eastern and Western Europe were and are mainly driven by cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Within twenty years after the fall of the iron curtain life conditions in Eastern Europe improved and became continuously more equal to the West (especially in Central Eastern Europe). Unexpectedly, however, the differences in CVD related mortality decrease only slowly. We analyse data for eastern and western Germans from 1984/86 (West Germany) and 1991/92 (East Germany), respectively, until 2006/07 by using and merging different longitudinal data sets. In some ways, the eastern German population can be seen as a model for several Central European countries which experienced similar political and economic transitions. We focus on individuals aged 60 and older at the moment of unification to capture people who lived the most of their lives either in western or eastern Germany. The results of this study are relevant for understanding the differences in CVD prevalence between Eastern and Western Europe. Differences in risk patterns could be interpreted as lag-effects of earlier life and health conditions under Eastern and Western European regimes. Hence, such differences would need specific health policies to improve the quality of life among elderly people as well as to increase life expectancy of Eastern European populations towards the level of Western Europe. On the other side, successful adoption of Western European life conditions could highlight that changes in social and health systems result in healthier populations within a few years.
Contact person: Christian Wegner
Formal demographic analysis of mortality
This project concentrates particularly on two methodological issues of the demographic analysis of mortality: indirect estimation techniques and tempo effects. Indirect estimation techniques like the orphanhood method or the sibling survival technique were developed originally to estimate mortality in less developed countries where demographic data are either nonexistent or of too bad quality to be usable. Developed countries are usually assumed to have no need to apply such methods as detailed demographic data exist. However, the possibilities of demographic analysis with direct methods are limited to the characteristics of available macro data on births, deaths and migrations. For instance, in many western countries official population statistics do not provide any data for estimating mortality by socioeconomic status or migration background, or for estimating the relationship between parity and mortality. In order to overcome these shortcomings we modify and extend the existing techniques for indirect estimation of adult mortality from survey information to allow their application to populations of developed countries. The analysis of mortality tempo effects is essential for understanding to which extent period mortality trends and differentials are caused by purely methodological issues rather than by causal mechanisms.
Contact person: Marc Luy