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Differential Mortality and Longevity in Switzerland, 1990-2004, From Social Structures to Social Resources (7098)

Début / Fin
01.04.2007 - 30.11.2010
Domaine(s) d'expertise
Sociologie, anthropologie
Sources de financement
Fonds national suisse de la recherche scientifique (FNS) et Université de Genève
Oris Michel (Laboratory of Demography and Interfackulty Centre for Gerontology, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Geneva)
Wanner Philippe (Laboratory of Demography, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Geneva)
Ritschard Gilbert (Department of Econometrics, Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences, Geneva)
Bonvin Jean-Michel (Haute école de travail social et de la santé | EESP | Lausanne)


Our research project proposes a demographic and social analysis of mortality and longevity in Switzerland in the 1990s and early 2000s. Though life expectancies reach the highest values observed in human history, it would be wrong to neglect the persistence of deep inequalities of mortality and the study of survival factors, i.e. the positive configurations that rise longevity. For us, surviving or dying is the dependent variable, while individual social resources, ecological indicators and their interactions are the explanatory variables. Although we also want to consider the causes of death (type of disease, accidents, etc.), our project is not an epidemiological one but primarily inscribed in a social sciences approach. 

In many previous studies, demographers related social structures - as they had been defined by public statisticians - to a demographic event, death. In this project we are not interested by the macro social structures for themselves. We ambition to consider (1) several personal characteristics (gender, age, matrimonial status, occupational and social status, educational level, citizenship or immigrant status and origin, household composition, housing conditions) that interact with (2) ecological, social, political, and cultural contexts, and to examine the resulting pattern of differential mortality. The personal characteristics represent a set of individual social resources - a set of capabilities - used by each individual to cope with stress and preserve his or her life as long as possible. But individual uses depend of several contexts (political, socio-economic, cultural, physical territories) that have also to be considered. We will use the classical methods of demographic analysis as well as the advanced statistical tools for multivariate survival analysis.

We want to explore simultaneously and in-depth the dark side of death and the sunny side of longevity in a peculiar area, Switzerland, since:

o such issues are clearly understudied in this country, where in spite of some excellent studies many gaps subsist in our knowledge and where a global and integrated research has never been organised;

o a new database - linking more than 800 000 death certificates from 1990-2004 with the population censuses of 1990 or 2000 - offers tremendous opportunities;

o indeed, while so much studies over socio-economic differentials in mortality have been and remain restricted to adult men, we have the opportunity to analyse also the effects of social resources on adult women mortality and elderly longevity;

o there is a demand in the international scientific community for data on Switzerland, a white spot on the European map but also a highly diverse country and population which is a perfect laboratory for differential analysis;

o there is also demand from the international scientific community for more interdisciplinary and theoretically constructed approaches implying consequent methodological developments;

o in the hot debates about ageing, financing social security and the challenge of maintaining equity in social policies, there is an urgent need of accurate data about the differentials in longevity and mortality, a necessity to inform political leaders as well as health and social workers.

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