Background: Over the last half a century education based inequalities in life expectancy have increased in younger populations, but our knowledge of long-term trends in old-age life expectancy differentials is sparse. We investigated the trends in remaining life expectancy at age 65 (e65) according to education in Norway for the period 1961-2009.
Methods: This was a register-based population study including all Norwegian residents aged 65 years and older. Individual-level data were provided by the Central Population Registry and the National Educational Database. We classified education into higher and lower education and constructed one life table for each calendar year, sex, and educational group. We tested for trends using weighted least square regression models.
Results: e65 increased over the observation period for all educational groups, but the difference in e65 increased by 0.060 life years per calendar year in men and 0.025 life years per calendar year in women (P < 0.001). The increase in e65 in less-educated men slowed in the 1980s and 1990s, whereas e65 in less-educated women decelerated from the 1980s, and significantly so from 2001 (P = 0.029).
Conclusions: Educational-based inequalities in e65 increased over the last half century. The increase seems to be temporal in men and might be ongoing in women. Increasing inequalities in e65 challenge public health policy and will become increasingly important in the ageing societies of the future. In addition, they imply increasing deviation from the overall life expectancy of the population, which forms the basis of the recently implemented adjustment of pension levels according to life expectancy. Divergent trends in e65 according to educational level may also have implications for future demographic projections.