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In many low-mortality countries, life expectancy at birth increased steadily over the last century. In particular, both Italian females and males benefited from faster improvements in mortality compared to other high-income countries, especially from the 1960s, leading to an exceptional increase in life expectancy. However, Italy has not become the leader in longevity. Here, we investigate life expectancy trends in Italy during the period 1960-2015 for both sexes. Additionally, we contribute to the existing literature by complementing life expectancy with an indicator of dispersion in ages at death, also known as lifespan inequality. Lifespan inequality underlies heterogeneity over age in populating health improvements and is a marker of uncertainty in the timing of death. We further quantify the contributions of different age groups and causes of death to recent trends in life expectancy and lifespan inequality. Our findings highlight the contributions of cardiovascular diseases and neoplasms to the recent increase in life expectancy but not necessarily to the decrease in lifespan inequality. Our results also uncover a more recent challenge across Italy: worsening mortality from infectious diseases and mortality at older age.

Original publication




Journal article


Scientific reports

Publication Date





Department of Economics, Management and Territory, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy.


Humans, Life Expectancy, Mortality, Cause of Death, Age Factors, Longevity, Italy, Female, Male