Comparative analysis of old-age mortality estimations in Africa.

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Survival to old ages is increasing in many African countries. While demographic tools for estimating mortality up to age 60 have improved greatly, mortality patterns above age 60 rely on models based on little or no demographic data. These estimates are important for social planning and demographic projections. We provide direct estimations of older-age mortality using survey data.


Since 2005, nationally representative household surveys in ten sub-Saharan countries record counts of living and recently deceased household members: Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. After accounting for age heaping using multiple imputation, we use this information to estimate probability of death in 5-year intervals (5qx). We then compare our 5qx estimates to those provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) to estimate the differences in mortality estimates, especially among individuals older than 60 years old.


We obtained information on 505,827 individuals (18.4% over age 60, 1.64% deceased). WHO and UNPD mortality models match our estimates closely up to age 60 (mean difference in probability of death -1.1%). However, mortality probabilities above age 60 are lower using our estimations than either WHO or UNPD. The mean difference between our sample and the WHO is 5.9% (95% CI 3.8–7.9%) and between our sample is UNPD is 13.5% (95% CI 11.6–15.5%). Regardless of the comparator, the difference in mortality estimations rises monotonically above age 60.


Mortality estimations above age 60 in ten African countries exhibit large variations depending on the method of estimation. The observed patterns suggest the possibility that survival in some African countries among adults older than age 60 is better than previously thought. Improving the quality and coverage of vital information in developing countries will become increasingly important with future reductions in mortality.

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