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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Emerging Trends in Mortality and Longevity Symposium 2011: a review

September saw the second conference hosted by the UK Actuarial Profession focusing on the development of new thinking in mortality and longevity by encouraging actuaries to work collaboratively with other disciplines to better understand past, present and future trends.

Following on from the groundbreaking Joining Forces conference in October 2009 (http://tinyurl.com/3mge6rv), the Emerging Trends symposium extended its group of partners to include the International Actuarial Association and 
the Society of Social Medicine, which 
held its Annual Scientific Meeting immediately following the event 

The symposium was extremely well attended and had plenary sessions and workshops across three themes: socio-demographics, individualised risk and the international dimension, 
with the new socio-demographic workstream proving particularly popular. The plenary session in that theme was presented by Michael Murphy, London School of Economics, who focused on contrasting and correlating recent mortality trends in Eastern and Western Europe. 
His paper looked at macro and micro drivers on mortality and highlighted the need to better understand the impact of cultural and social institutions.

The importance of social attitudes also emerged in the international theme, in particular in the different cultural attitudes to ageing, particularly relating to the ongoing health and independence in the old-old and the desire to be a productive member of society. In his international dimension plenary, 
Jean-Marie Robine, INSERM, French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, contrasted the trends in mortality of the 100+ age group in Japan and Denmark, suggesting cultural attitudes would seem to be playing a role in the differences exhibited.

The benefits that high-quality international comparative research can bring in investigating trends and drivers was highlighted by international workstream leader 
Carol Jagger in her closing summary and the need for more work in this area — as well as international comparisons showing where there is common ground, international diversity may bring insights into drivers.

The individualised risk theme followed on from the Joining Forces conference 
with a focus on genetics and genomic studies of ageing in the plenary session by Eline Slagboom, Leiden University. This synthesis of the latest research also highlighted areas where more study was needed especially with the need for larger studies. This theme also saw a greater contribution and new insights from the underwriting community.

In all themes, the need emerged for concerted action to ensure surveys include enough information to enable differentiation of risk factors in the 85+ age group. The UK Actuarial Profession’s Mortality Research Steering Committee 
will be reviewing the messages that 
emerged from the symposium in the next few months and developing the next stage of its thought leadership project to encourage interdisciplinary work in this area. A selection of papers from the conference will be published as a supplement to the British Actuarial Journal.