BACKGROUND: In the beginning of the 1970s, Sweden was the country where both women and men enjoyed the world's longest life expectancy. While life expectancy continues to be high and increasing, Sweden has been losing ground in relation to other leading countries.<br /><br />METHODS: We look at life expectancy over the years 1970-2008 for men and women. To assess the relative contributions of age, causes of death, and smoking we decompose differences in life expectancy between Sweden and two leading countries, Japan and France. This study is the first to use this decomposition method to observe how smoking related deaths contribute to life expectancy differences between countries.<br /><br />RESULTS: Sweden has maintained very low mortality at young and working ages for both men and women compared to France and Japan. However, mortality at ages above 65 has become considerably higher in Sweden than in the other leading countries because the decrease has been faster in those countries. Different trends for circulatory diseases were the largest contributor to this development in both sexes but for women also cancer played a role. Mortality from neoplasms has been considerably low for Swedish men. Smoking attributable mortality plays a modest role for women, whereas it is substantially lower in Swedish men than in French and Japanese men.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Sweden is losing ground in relation to other leading countries with respect to life expectancy because mortality at high ages improves more slowly than in the leading countries, especially due to trends in cardiovascular disease mortality. Trends in smoking rates may provide a partial explanation for the trends in women; however, it is not possible to isolate one single explanatory factor for why Sweden is losing ground.
Drefahl, S., Ahlbom, A., & Modig, K. (2014). Losing ground - Swedish life expectancy in a comparative perspective. PLoS ONE, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0088357