Determinants of Longevity and Ageing in Good Health (DELAG)

Website of Dr. Marc Luy and his Research Team

Research Projects

Most of our research is conducted within the resources of the research group "Health and Longevity" at the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. These resources are supplemented by externally funded projects which are presented at this webpage.

Levels and trends of health expectancy: understanding its measurement and estimation sensitivity

Acronym: LETHE
Funding: European Research Council (ERC Consolidator Grant Agreement No. 725187)
Researchers: Paola Di Giulio, Vanessa Di Lego, Patrick Lazarevic, Marc Luy, Markus Sauerberg
Duration: 2017—2022

Good health is central to human happiness and wellbeing. It also contributes substantially to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer and are more productive. Accordingly, the EU defined the improvement of health as a fundamental element of its "Europe 2020" strategy. The corresponding public health policies are assessed on the basis of a structural indicator for "Health Expectancy" (HE). Unfortunately, HE estimates are extremely sensitive to certain methodological issues of which many are widely ignored. First, the common measurement of population health by the responses to specific survey questions is ambiguous. As a consequence, statistics on levels and trends of HE vary significantly depending on the underlying survey data and health indicators. Almost completely unrecognized is a second problem: HE estimates are also highly sensitive to particular technical features, e.g. the age range and partitioning selected for analysis and the technique chosen to add the health dimension to the life table. The efforts that have been hitherto undertaken to improve the estimation of HE focus primarily on the measurement of health with surveys, whereas the effects of the chosen HE indicator, data and method remain largely unexplored. The central aim of LETHE is to fill these gaps through a systematic exploration of the HE indicator's sensitivity to these issues. To emphasize the empirical significance of the research, the effects will be investigated in the context of some major actual research questions, in particular the "compression versus expansion of morbidity" debate and the differences in HE between European populations and subpopulations. Finally, the project aims to identify the particular health measure that is most strongly associated with people’s actual happiness. These innovative approaches feature the potential to provide not only new insights into the levels and trends of HE, but also about its main drivers and causation mechanisms.

OEAW Interview with Marc Luy (in German): Wie lange leben wir wirklich?

DER STANDARD Interview with Marc Luy (in German): Männer erwartet höhere Zahl an gesunden Jahren

idw Report (in German): Längeres Leben, gesünderes Leben?

Ora et labora—Eine gesundheitssoziologische Studie über die Auswirkungen der längeren Lebensarbeitszeit von Ordensleuten in Wien auf deren Gesundheit und Lebensqualität

Funding: Stadt Wien, Magistratsabteilung 7
Researchers: Desiree Krivanek, Marc Luy
Duration: 2016—2017

The absolute and relative increase of retired people entails increasing pressure on the social security systems. Policymakers intend to reduce this burden by increasing the statutory pension age. This study investigated the effects of a longer working life time on health and life quality of order members to better assess the consequence of such a political measure. The study belongs to the Cloister Study subproject AGAS. Further information about the project and the findings can be found at the AGAS website (see link below).

AGAS Project Website

The male-female health-mortality paradox

Acronym: HEMOX
Funding: European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant Agreement No. 262663)
Researchers: Catherine E. Bowen, Paola Di Giulio, Ina Jaschinski, Desiree Krivanek, Anja Marcher, Christian Wegner-Siegmundt, Angela Wiedemann, Marc Luy
Duration: 2011—2016

From the 1960s to the 1980s a common wisdom about differences between males and females in health and mortality emerged which was summarised by the well-known phrase "women are sicker, but men die quicker". Recently this wisdom has been increasingly questioned. Nevertheless, the general idea of a paradoxical relationship between health and mortality among women and men persists until today. The purpose of this project is to decisively advance the understanding of the paradox by demonstrating that the reverse relationship between sex on the one side and health and mortality on the other is not as paradoxical as it seems. We hypothesise that two factors are mainly responsible for causing this intuitive contradiction. First, the overall reversal in sex morbidity and sex mortality differentials occurs because conditions that figure importantly in morbidity are not very important in mortality, and vice versa. Second, it is very likely that longevity is directly related to the absolute number of life years in ill health. Thus, women show higher morbidity rates not because they are female but because they are the sex with higher life expectancy. In this project we will test these hypotheses in a "natural experiment" by analysing the relationship between health and mortality among Catholic nuns and monks from Austria and Germany in comparison to women and men of the general population by means of a multi-wave health survey. Using demographic, epidemiologic and psychological methods, this study will analyse and explain the differences in health and mortality between (1) nuns and women of the general population, (2) monks and men of the general population, and (3) nuns and monks in comparison to those found between women and men of the general population.

HEMOX Project Website

HEMOX Project Report

ERC=SCIENCE2: Who wants to live forever?

Major ageing and gender issues in Europe

Acronym: MAGGIE
Funding: European Commission (FP6-Citizens Project No. 028571)
Researchers: Christian Wegner-Siegmundt, Marc Luy
Duration: 2006—2009

The MAGGIE research project has analysed the quality of life among older people, focusing on gender to inform policy development and identify the most vulnerable groups. The results suggest that the main influences on quality of life are health, financial security and family relationships. We found, however, that the impact of these factors is different for men and women. In general, life satisfaction of men is more dependent on home ownership and leisure pursuits, while women rely more on their children. The study also identified three broad distinctions across nations; in German speaking countries older people were generally financially secure, although the gender gap was decidedly wider than in other European countries. In Northern and Western Europe (e.g. France, Belgium, Denmark), the elderly were found to be more oriented towards friends and leisure activities, while elderly people from Southern Europe (e.g. Italy, Greece) were identified as most family oriented. The project involved ten research teams across Europe. Its main sources of data have been the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the Generations and Gender Programme (GGP). This has been supplemented with data from the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) and from FP5 predecessor project "Future elderly living conditions in Europe" (FELICIE).

MAGGIE Report Summary

Sex-specific variations in studies on differential mortality

Funding: Max Planck International Research Network on Aging (MaxnetAging)
Researchers: Katrin Gast, Marc Luy
Duration: 2006—2008

In this project we analyzed gender differences in mortality in empirical mortality studies which did not focus on the differences between women and men, but which separated the analysis by sex. The basic idea of this study was based on the approach of meta-analyses. By using empirical results of older studies for analyzing a phenomenon that has not been researched in these studies, this project introduced an innovative variant of the classical meta-analysis which we referred to as “serendipity based meta-analysis”. In addition to the quantitative summary of many results we analyzed also whether and how different kinds of mortality differentials (e.g. mortality by education, income or regional units) vary between women and men. The results of this project led to the formulation of the “risk group hypothesis” to explain male excess mortality and have been published in the journal Gerontology (see link below).

Publication in Gerontology
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