J Popul Res (Canberra). 2020;37(4):323-344. doi: 10.1007/s12546-020-09247-9. Epub 2020 Nov 5.
The U.S. elderly experience shorter lifespans and greater variability in age at death than their Canadian peers. In order to gain insight on the underlying factors responsible for the Canada-U.S. old-age mortality disparities, we propose a cause-of-death analysis. Accordingly, the objective of this paper is to compare levels and trends in cause-specific modal age at death (M) and standard deviation above the mode (SD(M +)) between Canada and the U.S. since the 1970s. We focus on six broad leading causes of death, namely cerebrovascular diseases, heart diseases, and four types of cancers. Country-specific M and SD(M +) estimates for each leading cause of death are calculated from P-spline smooth age-at-death distributions obtained from detailed population and cause-specific mortality data. Our results reveal similar levels and trends in M and SD(M +) for most causes in the two countries, except for breast cancer (females) and lung cancer (males), where differences are the most noticeable. In both of these instances, modal lifespans are shorter in the U.S. than in Canada and U.S. old-age mortality inequalities are greater. These differences are explained in part by the higher stratification along socioeconomic lines in the U.S. than in Canada regarding the adoption of health risk behaviours and access to medical services.