Journal Article

The great convergence? Mortality in Ireland and Europe, 1956–2014

May 3, 2020

European Journal of Public Health, ckaa060


Until recently, Irish age-standardized mortality rates (ASMRs) were amongst the highest in the EU-15. This study examines changes in ASMRs in Ireland from 1956 to 2014.


Using data from the World Health Organization Mortality Database, we compare ASMRs in Ireland to other EU-15 countries from 1956 to 2014. ASMRS are used to plot the relative ranking of Ireland within the EU-15, and illustrate trends in which Ireland diverged with, and converged to, the EU-15 average. ASMRS are estimated across sex, age groups (15–64 and 65+ years) and cause of death.


Between 1956 and 1999, ASMRs in Ireland were amongst the highest in the EU-15. ASMRs in Ireland saw slower improvements during this period as compared to other EU-15 countries. However, post-2000, a sharp reduction in Irish ASMRs resulted in an accelerated convergence to the EU-15 average. As a consequence of improvements in ASMRs between 2000 and 2014, there were an estimated 15 300 fewer deaths in 2014. The majority of these averted deaths were due to lower mortality rates for diseases of the circulatory system and respiratory system.


Rather than converging to the EU-15 average during the latter half of the 20th century, there was a divergence in ASMRs between Ireland and the EU-15. However, in recent years, Ireland experienced accelerated improvements in mortality rates with large reductions in mortality observed for diseases of the circulatory system and respiratory system, especially amongst older people.