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The University of Southampton

How long are we going to live?

Researchers at the University of Southampton have been at the forefront of developing innovative methods for estimating and forecasting mortality for all ages, using statistical methodology to estimate life expectancy.

13 January 2020

Working with the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Southampton researchers have developed life table estimation methodology and conducted further research on forecasting mortality rates.

Results have demonstrated the importance of proper assessment of uncertainty of population forecasts, which include mortality as their key component.

In order to provide reliable and robust mortality estimates and forecasts, the variability of mortality needs to be properly calibrated for all age groups. Therefore, the Southampton team has developed flexible methods for estimating and subsequently forecasting mortality.

The key methodological innovation of the new approach is to allow mortality at different stages of human life to be described by different, but closely interconnected models. This approach, applied first to the English Life Tables No. 17 for 2010-12, enabled the Southampton team to efficiently deal with the challenges posed by the sparse data in the oldest age groups.

Dr Erengul Dodd, Associate Professor of Actuarial Mathematics, is part of the Southampton research team. “Our approach, and its subsequent extensions to models for mortality forecasting, offer a solution to many practical challenges posed by an ageing population and uncertain increases in longevity,” she explains.

We are very proud that our work has contributed to the production of UK National Statistics, and provides continuity to a series that has been ongoing since 1841. The new method provides a much-needed update to its methodological novelty and rigour, especially for old-age mortality.

Dr Erengul Dodd - Associate Professor of Actuarial Mathematics

Due to the success of this research, the team is also working with the ONS on National Population Projections. The English Life Tables are also used to inform policy regarding state pension age, and to assess risk for life assurance and pension liability.

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