Background: Some mortality statistics are misleading when comparing between countries due to varying age distributions in their populations. In order to adjust for these differences, age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) are often produced. ASMRs allow for comparisons between countries as if both had the same standardised population. We examined whether the updating of the standard population for Europe affected the description of the relative burden between countries in cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality across the continent. Methods: Mortality and population data were obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO) mortality database. ASMRs were calculated using the direct method and two European Standard Populations (ESP): 1976 ESP and 2013 ESP. We investigated differences in ASMR76 (calculated using 1976 ESP) and ASMR13 (calculated using 2013 ESP), changes in rankings of countries between the two ASMRs and differences in trends in CVD mortality in each country for the two ASMRs. Results: CVD rates calculated using the 1976 ESP were on average half the size of rates calculated using the 2013 ESP. Spearman's rank coefficient showed that the ranks of countries by ASMRs calculated using the two ESPs were different for both sexes. Joinpoint analyses showed no difference in the direction of trend between ASMR76 and ASMR13 although differences in the magnitude of the change were found in some countries. Conclusion: ASMRs are commonly used in studying the epidemiology of a disease. It is crucial that policy makers understand the effect of changes in standard populations on these rates. This includes how populations with different age distributions compare to each other. Similar effects may be seen in other diseases that are also more prevalent in older age groups, such as cancer and dementia.
- Cardiovascular disease
- European Standard Population
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health