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Demography. 2008 Aug;45(3):673-91.

The exceptionally high life expectancy of Costa Rican nonagenarians.

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Centro Centroamericano de Población, Universidad de Costa Rica, Apartado 2060, San Jose, Costa Rica.


Robust data from a voter registry show that Costa Rican nonagenarians have an exceptionally high live expectancy. Mortality at age 90 in Costa Rica is at least 14% lower than an average of 13 high-income countries. This advantage increases with age by 1% per year Males have an additional 12% advantage. Age-90 life expectancy for males is 4.4 years, one-half year more than any other country in the world. These estimates do not use problematic data on reported ages, but ages are computed from birth dates in the Costa Rican birth-registration ledgers. Census data confirm the exceptionally high survival of elderly Costa Ricans, especially males. Comparisons with the United States and Sweden show that the Costa Rican advantage comes mostly from reduced incidence of cardiovascular diseases, coupled with a low prevalence of obesity, as the only available explanatory risk factor Costa Rican nonagenarians are survivors of cohorts that underwent extremely harsh health conditions when young, and their advantage might be just a heterogeneity in frailty effect that might disappear in more recent cohorts. The availability of reliable estimates for the oldest-old in low-income populations is extremely rare. These results may enlighten the debate over how harsh early-life health conditions affect older-age mortality.

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