Long-Term Trends of Disability and Mortality in Swedish Populations

Kateryna Karhina , Umeå University
Lotta Vikström, Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR), Umeå University
Johan Junkka, Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR), Umeå University
Glenn Sandström, Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR), Umeå University
Alessandra Grotta, Karolinska Institutet

While disability disadvantages in health are recurrently discussed in research, the association between disability and death is poorly investigated, as is how disability types and gender shape mortality. There is further scant knowledge on whether today’s disability-health gap goes a long way back in history and has narrowed due to societal change and advancement in medicine, welfare and health care. The aim is to identify long-term disability effects on health evidenced by mortality risks in Swedish populations during two centuries (1800s-2010s). We expect to find periodic changes marked by a mortality decline in line with the health increase worldwide, when Sweden moved from a poor country to a welfare state. The results originate from parish and population registers covering comprehensive populations. They show micro-level data and impairments (sensory, physically, mentally) enabling Cox regressions on how disabilities intersect with age, gender, SES and marital status and determine mortality across time. For the 1800-1960 period, disabled people did not come to enjoy a higher health status relative to others despite improving living conditions and rising life expectancy. Disability persisted to doubling the mortality risks and even more. This is one major long-term trend; another that the highest risks were associated with mental disabilities and men. Sensory dysfunctions increased mortality as well regardless of gender, but to lower extent than mental and physical disabilities. Past disability disadvantages thus persisted well into the mid-20th century. Next, we will examine whether this long-term trend shifted during Sweden’s welfare era until recent decades.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session Ageing, Health and Mortality