Mortality in the Netherlands continued to fall in the first six months of 2007. Despite the ageing of the Dutch population, mortality has decreased annually since 2002. Such a long period of declining mortality has not occurred in the past century.
Risk of dying drops by a quarter among young people
The risk of dying has declined for decades across all age categories. The risk of dying for children is only one sixth of the rate in 1950. The most remarkable decline was recorded among people in their teens and twenties. The decrease in the number of young traffic deaths accounts for half of the decline.
Mortality among people in their seventies drops considerably
The recent decrease in the risk of dying has hugely affected mortality among older people. Mortality among people in their seventies has declined considerably in recent years. The ageing process only affected mortality among extremely old people.
Mortality down, first six months 2007 relative to 2002*
Cardiovascular mortality drops substantially
Two thirds of deaths among seventy-year-olds are caused by cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The risk for people in this age category to die from cardiovascular diseases has declined by one quarter since 2002. The decline is more or less evenly spread among men and women.
The risk of dying from cancer for people in the 70-79 age category, on the other hand, has dropped by a scarce 1 percent since 2002, although the decrease was much larger for breast and prostate cancer. The trend for lung cancer is favourable for men and highly unfavourable for women.
Decrease in the risk of dying for people in their seventies by cause of death, first six months 2002-2007*
No extreme weather conditions
The decrease in mortality depends on a variety of causes. Mortality due to extremely high or low temperatures, for example, has been relatively low in recent years. Mortality was indeed high during heat waves, but over the entire period (2002-2007) weather conditions were more moderate than in previous years.
Flu epidemics have not occurred either in recent years. For older people flu increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Prevention and improvements in medical treatment have also played an important part in pushing back cardiovascular mortality.
Joop Garssen and Jan Hoogenboezem