improvement-stagnation-improvement but no catch-up for life expectancy at birth and at age 65.
In the 1950s, Denmark was a world leader in life expectancy for both men and women, along with Sweden and the Netherlands, which are usually considered to be very similar to Denmark in many aspects of society. A parallel increase in life expectancy for these three countries, most pronounced for women, was seen during the three decades leading up to 1980, which marked the beginning of a stagnation period of 10-15 years in Denmark (see Figure 14-1a). The Netherlands experienced a later and shorter stagnation period, and Sweden continued with positive development throughout the 20th century. From the mid-1990s, Denmark experienced an annual increase in life expectancy corresponding to that of the best-performing countries, but Danish longevity has not been able to catch up with Sweden. Denmark’s trajectory—improvement-stagnation-improvement but no catch-up—is found also for life expectancy at age 65 (see Figure 14-1b) and at age 80 for men. For women at age 80, however, the trajectory is not so clear (see Figure 14-1c). This development over the second half of the 20th century means that Denmark’s position in life expectancy dropped from rank 3 among 20 OECD countries in the 1950s to rank 17 for men and 20 for women in 2000, while Sweden maintained its position near the top, especially for men (see Figure 14-2) (Juel, 2008).
Another informative way to illustrate this development is by looking at the annual increase in life expectancy. Oeppen and Vaupel (2002) show that “best-practice” life expectancy, that is, the highest value recorded in a single country in a given year, rose by about 2.5 years every decade (2.43 years) for women, starting in 1840. Male life-expectancy improvements occurred at the slightly slower pace of 2.22 years per decade. A comparison of Denmark’s life-expectancy improvement increases with these best-practice increases (see Figure 14-3a) shows that, in the middle and at the end of the 20th century, Denmark had attained best-practice life-expectancy increases for women, while for men best-practice increases were only seen at the end of the period. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Denmark’s life-expectancy improvement rates were close to zero. The pattern at age 65 is similar to the patterns described above but less pronounced and are even less so at age 80 (see Figures 14-3b and 14-3c).
In Sweden, life expectancy at birth for women in 2007 reached 83 years; for women who survived to age 83, remaining life expectancy was 7.5 additional years. Life disparity can be measured as the average remaining life