Aiding and Aging: The Coming Crisis in Support for the Elderly by Kin and State

By John Mogey | Go to book overview
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7
THE FAMILY AND THE STATE: RISING HUNGARIANDEATHRATES

Elwood Carlson, Mary Watson


SIGNIFICANCE OF MORTALITY IN OLD AGE

Beginning in the early 1960s, death rates reversing an earlier trend stopped declining in Hungary ( Szabady, 1968). Instead an unprecedented steady increase began, which has persisted now for a quarter of a century ( Compton, 1985). This rising mortality trend has manifested itself in virtually every other Eastern European country as well ( Boleslawski, 1985; Bourgeois-Pichat, 1985; Jozan, 1986; Valkovics, 1984), but the greatest proportionate increase in death rates has been recorded in Hungary. Table 7.1 shows age-specific values for a ratio of death rates observed in the 1970s to death rates observed in the 1980s, for several European countries. The leading position of Hungary is clear.

Most conditions and behaviors so far advanced as specific risk factors, such as low income, low educational level, lags in health care, sedentary lifestyle, excessive drinking and smoking, traditional diet and the like, would predict particularly steep mortality increases for elderly people ( Biro et al., 1984). Elderly people have the lowest incomes, the least education, the most sedentary lifestyle, the most dependence on medical care, and almost by definition, the most attachment to traditions. All these risk factors would predict greater and greater mortality increases at progressively older ages.

This expectation is contradicted by the facts ( Madai, 1980; Jozan, 1986). Table 7.1 shows that the largest increases in all these countries occurred in the active working ages. Beyond age 60, increases in mortality were insignificant or nonexistent. Table 7.2 confirms this pattern in more detail for Hungary. Indeed, only ages 30 to 60 revealed any increases at all for women.

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