• Melinda Mills

Has income become more important in determining the length of life in Finland?

Figure above: Lifespan distributions of the bottom and top 20% income in Finland. S: Lifespan stratification; ∆e25: Difference in life expectancy at age 25; ∆SD25: Difference in the standard deviation of the two distributions.

Income is an important determinant of health and mortality even in contemporary welfare states. In Finland, lifespan distributions of low- and high-income groups have become more distinct from each other between 1998 and 2017, while the gap in life expectancy has narrowed in more recent years, according to research published in Population Studies.

In this study, LCDS DPhil student Jiaxin Shi, LCDS researcher José Manuel Aburto and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and the University of Helsinki proposed a new metric to quantify lifespan stratification. This metric captures differences in overall lifespan distributions, whereas most previous studies have focused on inequalities in the average length of life, the so-called “life expectancy”. This study found that whether income inequalities in longevity in Finland have increased depends on what measure is used. “Life expectancy is certainly a power indicator for population health, but it should not be the end of the story. For a better understanding of lifespan inequalities, we need additional metrics such as the index we proposed in our paper,” says Jiaxin.


Shi, Jiaxin, José Manuel Aburto, Pekka Martikainen, Lasse Tarkiainen, and Alyson van Raalte. 2022. A distributional approach to measuring lifespan stratification. Population Studies.