Stagnation of life expectancy in Korea in 2018: A cause-specific decomposition analysis

Taejae Kim, Jinwook Bahk, Hwa Kyung Lim, Young Ho Khang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


According to the most recent annual report released by Korea Statistics, the life expectancy at birth (for both sexes) in 2018 was 82.7 years, an increase of 0.0 years over 2017, reflecting the first stagnation in life expectancy since 1960. In this study, a time-series analysis was conducted of trends in life expectancy from 2003 to 2018, and causes of death were analyzed using the Kannisto-Thatcher method and the Arriaga decomposition method. The time trend analysis of yearly life expectancy changes indicated that, in Korea, there was a tendency for the yearly increase in life expectancy between 2003 and 2018 to decrease by 0.0211 years per calendar year. The contribution of cardiovascular diseases, the most important contributor to the life expectancy increase in Korea, gradually decreased over this period. The contribution of cardiovascular diseases to the life expectancy increase was 0.506 years in 2003–2006, but this contribution decreased to 0.218 years in 2015–2018. The positive contributions of ill-defined causes and external causes to life expectancy increase detected in previous periods were not evident in 2015–2018. Diseases of the respiratory system made the largest negative contribution both between 2015 and 2018 and between 2017–2018. The life expectancy stagnation in 2018 could be understood as the combined effect of (a) decreasing momentum in the increase of life expectancy and (b) a chance event in 2018 involving life expectancy. Currently, it is difficult to judge whether the stagnation of life expectancy in 2018 is temporary, and further analyses of life expectancy and contributing causes of death in the future are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0244380
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12 December
StatePublished - Dec 2020

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