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BMC Public Health. 2014 Jun 5;14:560. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-560.

Decomposition of educational differences in life expectancy by age and causes of death among South Korean adults.

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Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, 388-1 Pungnap2-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul 138-736, Korea.



Decomposition of socioeconomic inequalities in life expectancy by ages and causes allow us to better understand the nature of socioeconomic mortality inequalities and to suggest priority areas for policy and intervention. This study aimed to quantify age- and cause-specific contributions to socioeconomic differences in life expectancy at age 25 by educational level among South Korean adult men and women.


We used National Death Registration records in 2005 (129,940 men and 106,188 women) and national census data in 2005 (15, 215, 523 men and 16,077,137 women aged 25 and over). Educational attainment as the indicator of socioeconomic position was categorized into elementary school graduation or less, middle or high school graduation, and college graduation or higher. Differences in life expectancy at age 25 by educational level were estimated by age- and cause-specific mortality differences using Arriaga's decomposition method.


Differences in life expectancy at age 25 between college or higher education and elementary or less education were 16.23 years in men and 7.69 years in women. Young adult groups aged 35-49 in men and aged 25-39 in women contributed substantially to the differences between college or higher education and elementary or less education in life expectancy. Suicide and liver disease were the most important causes of death contributing to the differences in life expectancy in young adult groups. For older age groups, cerebrovascular disease and lung cancer were important to explain educational differential in life expectancy at 25-29 between college or higher education and middle or higher education.


The contribution of the causes of death to socioeconomic inequality in life expectancy at age 25 in South Korea varied by age groups and differed by educational comparisons. The age specific contributions for different causes of death to life expectancy inequalities by educational attainment should be taken into account in establishing effective policy strategies to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in life expectancy.

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