Lexicon of Longevity

A glossary of Longevity terms

A

Accident hump

The phenomenon of increased mortality rates for people in their late teens and early twenties in a given population.

Actual/Expected (A/E) ratio

The ratio of actual deaths in a specific population to those predicted by a defined mortality table.

Age effect

A common way to analyze historical mortality improvements is to break them down into three components: age, period and cohort. Age effects reflect the fact that progress in reducing mortality may be concentrated amongst certain age groups.

Age rating

A crude way of tailoring a base table to fit the characteristics of a particular population, by shifting the rates up or down by one or more years.

Age standardization / standardisation

The process of calculating average mortality rates using weightings based on a standard reference population.

Age-period-cohort (or APC) analysis

A common way to analyze historical mortality improvements is to break them down into three components: age, period and cohort.

Ageing/aging

The process of deterioration of the physical condition of a living organism that ultimately leads to death.

Annuity

A financial instrument offered by an insurance company that pays a regular income to the recipient either for the rest of their life (a lifetime annuity) or for a fixed period (a fixed term annuity).

B

Baby boomers

People born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s.

Base table

A set of age-specific rates of assumed mortality (or survival), intended to represent a snapshot of mortality at a specific point of time in a given population without any allowance for future variation.

Base year

The reference year for a base table.

Baseline longevity (or current longevity)

A snapshot of current longevity captured by a base table.

Baseline model

A model used to calculate baseline longevity (a snapshot of current longevity), usually in the form of a base table.

Basis (or baseline) risk

When calculating the longevity for a given population, this is the risk of how much the given population differs from the population used to calculate the baseline longevity assumption.

Biological age

The measure of how old a person seems, allowing for the fact the aging of the body takes place at different rates for different people depending on genetic and environmental influences.

Biological limit on life

An ageing theory which postulates that humans (along with other species) have a natural limit to their lifespans that cannot be exceeded.

Birth cohort

A group of people from a given population defined by the time of their birth.

Blue collar / white collar

A distinction of different types of workforce commonly used as a ratings factor in the United States.

Bulk annuities (or group annuity)

An insurance offering popular with pension plans where a portfolio of annuity contracts is purchased to cover a group of participants of the plan.

Buy-in

The purchase of bulk annuities by a pension plan resulting in the insurance contracts remaining as plan assets.

Buy-out

The purchase of bulk annuities by a pension plan resulting in passing all the governance and control of the assets to the insurance company.

C

Cairns-Blake-Dowd (or CBD) model

A mathematical model for projecting historical trends in mortality improvements into the future.

Calment, Jeanne

A French woman from Arles, born in 1875, who is the oldest recorded human with, a lifespan of 122 years and 164 days.

Canadian Pensioners’ Mortality (CPM) tables

A series of standard tables published by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries as part of the Canadian Pensioners’ Mortality study.

Cause of cause of death projection model

A longevity projection model that aims to predict the future changes to mortality rates by modeling the changes in the underlying causes of specific causes of death.

Cause of death

The reason recorded for the death of a given individual. Studying common causes of death and the changes in their occurrence within a population can help us understand how longevity may change in the future. 

Cause of death projection model

A longevity projection model that aims to predict future changes to mortality rates by modeling the changes in causes of death.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a United States federal agency under the agency of the Department of Health and is the leading national public health institute of the US. 

Chronological age

Chronological age is age measured as time elapsed since the date of birth.

Club Vita

  1. A center of excellence for improving the understanding of human longevity.
  2. A community of organizations with a shared interest in longevity and a belief that the ‘bigger’ the data, the lower the (statistical) noise.
  3. A provider of longevity risk informatics to support pension plans’ risk management strategies and enable market innovation.

CMI Library of projections

A ‘library’ of mortality projections compiled by the Continuous Mortality Investigation in the UK up to 2014.

CMI mortality projections model

A deterministic model developed in the UK by the Continuous Mortality Investigation for projecting mortality rates into the future. (Often abbreviated to “the CMI model”).  

Cohort

A group of people from a given population that share a common time period for some event (such as birth or retirement).

Cohort effect

A common way to analyze historical mortality improvements is to break them down into three components: age, period and cohort. Cohort effects relate to the unique experience of a particular birth cohort.

Cohort life expectancy

Life expectancy determined using projected death statistics for one particular birth cohort and generally assuming future changes in death rates (typically a reduction, often referred to as an ‘improvement’).

Collateral

A form of security offered by a counterparty in an ongoing transaction, where the value of promised payments can vary due to external events.

Compensation law

The compensation law of mortality (or late-life mortality convergence) states that the relative differences in death rates between different human populations decrease with age.

Compression of mortality

The ongoing effect resulting in the narrowing of the range of ages over which most individuals die.

Concentration of risk

This is a measure for how concentrated longevity risk is among individual members of a given population.

Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI)

An organization run by the UK actuarial profession that collates mortality data from UK insurers and UK pension plans and produces mortality tables.

Counterparty

When entering into a transaction with another party, that party is known as the counterparty to the transaction.

Counterparty risk

When entering into a transaction, there is a risk that the counterparty does not meet its contractual obligations (for example, they fail to make a payment at the required time). This risk is known as counterparty risk.

Covariate

A rating factor, or covariate, is a characteristic that could potentially be used to identify different mortality rates between individuals.

CPM-B improvement scale

A Canadian scale of future mortality rate improvements published by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries as part of the Canadian Pensioners’ Mortality study.

Credibility study

An experience analysis of a pension plan’s (or an insurance book’s) historical longevity data used to adjust standard tables to bring them more in line with a pension plan’s observed experience.

Credibility theory

A statistical theory used to combine multiple estimates from different sources when predicting future events.

D

De Grey, Aubrey

Aubrey de Grey is an English author and biomedical gerontologist. He is famous for his view that medical technology may enable human beings alive today to avoid death from age related causes.

Death rate

Generally, a mortality rate, or death rate, is a measure of the number of deaths in a given population of a given time period. The term is also commonly used by actuaries to refer to the probability of dying within the following year.

Demographic drift

The change in the types of people making up given population (such as the employees of a given company) over time.

Demography

The study of populations, and in particular the profile of populations (for example by age, gender, socio-economic group, ethnicity, etc) and how these profiles are changing.

E

Expectation of life

The expectation of life is the length of time (generally measured in years) that an individual can expect to live. It is sometimes referred to as ‘life expectancy’.

Experience analysis

An assessment of actual mortality rates of a group of lives against those predicted by a standard table (such as SAPS tables in the UK, Pri 2012 or Pub 2010 in the US or CPM tables in Canada) or a rating factor model (such as VitaCurves).

Exposed-to-risk

The number of individuals within a specified population who are ‘at risk’ of a specified event occurring to them or in relation to them.

F

First life

In a pension plan or an annuity contract, a first life refers to the individual who is initially entitled to payment.

Fixed leg

A series of fixed payments exchanged as part of a longevity swap.

Fixed term annuity

A financial instrument offered by an insurance company that pays a regular income to the recipient for a fixed period.

Floating leg

A series of variable payments exchanged as part of a longevity swap.

Future improvements

The projected reduction of mortality rates in the future. 

Future improvements model

A projection model that projects levels of improvements to mortality rates into the future.

G

GAM/R tables

The Group Annuity Mortality (GAM) and Group Annuity Reserving (GAR) tables are a series of standard tables in the US used for assessing baseline longevity for solvency purposes.

Gavrilov and Gavrilova, Leonid and Natalia

Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova are prominent bio-demographers who applied the principles of reliability theory (the study of the failure of industrial systems) to human biology.

Generalized/Generalised Linear Model (GLM)

A mathematical model used to predict the outcome of a future event that follows the pattern of a specific statistical distribution.

Generation list

People born in and living through the same period are often thought to share certain characteristics. Here is a list of generations and some of their characteristics for people born after the mid-1920s.

Generation X

People born between the mid-1960s and late-1970s who grew up during a period of social transition with the end of the Cold War.

Generation Y

People born between the early-1980s and late-1990s. 

Generation Z

People born after the late 1990s (no end date has emerged yet). Sometimes referred to as the i-generation.

Geo-demographics

The description of people according to where they live. Such descriptions are widely used in the world of market research.

Geriatric

A medical term: geriatric medicine refers to the clinical, preventive and social aspects of illness in older people.

Gerontology

The study of aging in humans.

Golden Cohort effect

The effect that UK retirees born around 1926 live longer lives than those born earlier or (immediately) later.

Gompertz, Benjamin

A British mathematician, actuary and Fellow of the Royal Society. His work on mortality tables led him in 1825 to develop his law of human mortality – known as the Gompertz curve.

Graduation

The mathematical process of ironing out bumps in observed mortality rates at individual ages to produce smoothed mortality or survival curves.

Grieving widows effect

The effect of mortality rates generally being higher for a surviving contingent second life (usually a spouse) than for the first life.

Group annuity (or bulk annuities)

An insurance offering popular with pension plans where a portfolio of annuity contracts is purchased to cover a group of participants of the plan.

H

Halley, Edmond

A prominent scientist of his day, now most famous for his comet. He also made a vital contribution to actuarial science, being the first person to publish life tables based on sound demographic data.

Health cascade

A theory of longevity improvements, where healthy behaviours are first adopted by more comfortable socio-economic groups (due to better opportunities and education). These behaviours then ‘cascade’ through society with less fortunate socio-economic groups adopting them later.

Healthy life expectancy

The number of years an individual is expected to live in good, or fairly good, health.

Hedging

Hedging is a broad concept that involves using opposite exposures to a risk to reduce the effects of that risk.

Heterogeneous

A term commonly used in statistics, meaning ‘containing diverse and different items’, or ‘displaying different characteristics'.

Homogeneous

Homogeneous means ‘containing identical items’, or ‘displaying identical characteristics’.

I

Idiosyncratic risk (or individual risk)

The risk that certain members of a population live significantly longer (or shorter) lives than that predicted, driven by the natural variation in a population (where some people may just be (un)lucky with how long they live).

Improvements

The reduction of mortality rates over time. Usually refers to reductions that are projected to happen in the future.

In the money

A term used to describe the current state of a longevity swap. It is in the money for a particular party if they would gain financially if it was settled at that point in time.

Indemnity swap

An indemnity swap is the term for a longevity swap where the ‘actual’ mortality rates are determined by the experience of a specified population.

Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD)

A UK government qualitative study of deprived areas in English local councils (with similar measures produced for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Index-based swap

An index-based swap is a type of longevity swap that uses the experience of a standard ‘index’ population to determine the ‘actual’ mortality rates.

Individual risk

The risk that certain members of a population live significantly longer (or shorter) lives than that predicted, driven by the natural variation in a population (where some people may just be (un)lucky with how long they live).

Industry effect

An industry effect is when people working in a specific industry experience significantly different mortality rates than people with similar characteristics (i.e., similar rating factors) working in other industries.

Initial addition to mortality improvements parameter (A)

An advanced parameter of the CMI mortality projections model that was introduced in the 2018 model, which allows users to alter short-term rates.

Intermediary

In an insurance transaction, an intermediary is an entity which acts as a middle party between the party transferring the risk and the party ultimately taking on the risk.

L

Law of large numbers

The law of large numbers shows that the average of the results of a large number of experiments should be close to the expected value of the experiment and will become closer to the true value as more trials are performed. Essentially, more data will result in better estimates.

Lee-Carter

The Lee-Carter model is a mathematical model for projecting historic trends in mortality improvements into the future.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy, or the expectation of life is the length of time (generally measured in years) that an individual can expect to live. It is also referred to as ‘expectation of life’.

Life settlement (or viatical settlement)

A life settlement is the sale of a life insurance policy before the death of the insured party.

Life table

A table containing the number of people that survive to any given age in any given year, starting from a reference population in a given start year.

Lifetime annuity

A financial instrument offered by an insurance company that pays a regular income to the recipient for the rest of their life.

Long-term rate

A rate of longevity improvement used in some projection models to reflect a long-term sustainable rate of reduction (improvement) to mortality rates.

Longevity

In general usage, longevity is often used to refer to long (or longer than expected) life. However, actuaries and demographers generally use ‘longevity’ as the converse of mortality.

Longevity black swan

A black swan is an event or occurrence that deviates significantly beyond what is normally expected and that would be extremely difficult to predict. A longevity black swan is such an event relating to life expectancy.

Longevity escape velocity

Longevity escape velocity is a hypothetical situation in which life expectancy is improving at a faster rate than people are ageing.

Longevity risk

The risk that a given individual or population will live longer than expected (in particular leading to negative effects).

Longevity swaps (or mortality swaps)

A class of special financial instruments enabling two parties to exchange payments depending upon the actual mortality rates experienced by a particular population.

Longevity trends

The changes to the longevity of individuals in a certain population over time.

M

Medical underwriting

The process of obtaining medical or health information for a given population to give a better estimate of how long they will live.

Medically underwritten bulk annuities (MUBA)

A bulk annuity contract completed after applying medical underwriting to more accurately reflect the mortality of the individuals covered by the contract.

Medically underwritten mortality study (MUMS)

A process of completing a mortality study for the population of a specific pension plan using medical underwriting.

Methuselah

Methuselah was a biblical figure said to have died at the age of 969, the longest lifespan mentioned in the Bible. His name has become synonymous with longevity.

MI-2017 improvement scale

A set of mortality improvements published in 2017 by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

Millennials

People born between the early-1980s and late-1990s. Also known as generation Y.

Minimum improvements

A minimum level of ongoing mortality improvements assumed to take place in the future.

Morbidity

Morbidity refers to the state of being sick or disabled, and to the incidence or prevalence of sickness or disability.

Mortality

In general, the term mortality refers to the susceptibility to death. When actuaries refer to mortality they use it to mean the likelihood of death.

Mortality improvements

The reduction of mortality rates over time. Usually refers to reductions that are projected to happen in the future.

Mortality rate (or death rate)

Generally, a mortality rate, or death rate, is a measure of the number of deaths in a given population of a given time period. The term is also commonly used by actuaries to refer to the probability of dying within the following year.

Mortality risk

The risk that a given individual or population will not live as long as expected (in particular leading to negative effects).

Mortality swaps

An alternative term for longevity swaps.

Mortality table

A set of mortality rates defined for each age, usually spanning ages 0 to 115 or 120.

MP improvement scale

The MP improvement scale is a projection model widely used by pension plans in the US. 

Multi-variate statistics

A branch of mathematical statistics that helps to identify the strength of relationships and inter-dependencies in bodies of data that include many covariates.

O

Office of National Statistics (ONS)

The Office for National Statistics is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority, a non-ministerial department which reports directly to the UK Parliament.

Olshansky, Jay

An American bio-demographer and gerontologist. He argues that human longevity has already reached its upper limits and has little room for further gains.

ONS longitudinal study

A longitudinal study of the England and Wales population run by the UK’s Office for National Statistics.

Out of the money

A term used to describe the current state of a longevity swap. It is out of the money for a particular party if they would lose financially if it was settled at that point in time.

P

P-spline

P-splines are a mathematical tool which are used to analyze and extrapolate trends in historical mortality.

Pass-through structure

A pass-through structure is a type of intermediation (see intermediary). Under this structure, any longevity risk, counterparty risk or other financial risks are not retained by the intermediary.

Period effect

A common way to analyse historical mortality improvements is to break them down into three components: age, period and cohort. Period effects relate to factors that affect all age groups at a particular time.

Period life expectancy

Life expectancies that are determined based on mortality rates for one particular period with no allowance for any future changes in mortality rates after that period.

Period smoothing parameter (Sĸ)

An advanced parameter of the CMI mortality projections model used to alter the weight of recent experience on short term rates.

Population pyramid

A popular type of chart used to depict the age and gender structure of a population.

Post-code baseline model

A particular type of rating factor model commonly used in the UK which uses post-codes as a rating factor to reflect different longevity experience for people living in different areas.

Postal code baseline model

A particular type of rating factor model used in Canada which uses postal codes as a rating factor to reflect different longevity experience for people living in different areas.

Premature death

Premature death is effectively death resulting from something other than old age. Causes of premature death include disease (e.g. cancer, heart disease), murder, suicide and malnutrition.

Pri 2012

A set of standard tables produced by the Society of Actuaries in the US in 2019 based on data from private sector retirement plans (including both single employer and multi-employer plans).

Projection model

A model for projecting changes (usually levels of improvements) to mortality rates into the future.

Pub 2010

A set of standard tables published in the US by the Society of Actuaries based on data from private sector retirement plans (including both single employer and multi-employer plans).

Q

qx

The actuarial notation for the 1 year mortality rate at age x.

R

Rating factor

A rating factor, or covariate, is a characteristic that could potentially be used to identify different mortality rates between individuals.

Rating factor model

A particular type of baseline model which uses rating factors to reflect different longevity experience for people with different characteristics.

Rectangularization/Rectangularisation

The ongoing effect resulting in the narrowing of the range of ages over which most individuals die.

Reinsurer

A reinsurer is an insurer for insurers.

Relative risk

In the context of mortality risk, relative risk refers to the increased (or decreased) chance of dying of a certain group compared to another group.

Reliability theory

Reliability theory derives from a subfield of mechanics: where the failure of too many parts of a machine leads to the failure of the machine itself. In the context of longevity modeling, the machine is the human body, and its failure is death.

Retirement Plans Experience Committee (RPEC)

A Society of Actuaries committee responsible for the ongoing reporting of mortality and other experience of pension benefits provided directly by employers. RPEC is responsible for producing the series of Pri 2012 and Pub 2010 tables and the MP improvement scale projection model.

RP tables

A series of standard tables produced by the Society of Actuaries in the US, based on data from uninsured pension plans and widely used for assessing pension plan baseline mortality.

S

SAPS tables

The standard tables published by the UK’s CMI, based on the data collected from its Self-Administered Pension Scheme (SAPS) mortality investigation.

Scaling factor

A crude way of tailoring a base table to allow for the characteristics of a particular population, by multiplying the mortality rates by a scaling factor (for example 90% or 110%).

Scenario modeling

A risk management technique applied to longevity risk where the outcomes of accessible, descriptive scenarios are modeled to assess their overall impact on future longevity and knock-on effects to pension plan or insurer liabilities.

Second life (or beneficiary)

In a pension plan or an annuity contract, a second life refers to an individual (usually a spouse or civil partner) who is entitled to payment in the event of the death of the first life.

Select table

A particular form of mortality table that is used for sub-populations that have been selected in some way.

Self-Administered Pension Scheme (SAPS) mortality investigation

The investigation run by the UK’s CMI into mortality experience for large self-administered pension schemes, pooling data from some of the largest pension plans in the UK.

Senescence

Senescence is the scientific name for ageing and relates to the biological processes which take place in individuals at older ages.

Short, medium and long cohort

Three different cohort projections produced by the Continuous Mortality Investigation, each projecting the future of the ‘golden cohort differently (with short, medium and long effects).

Sidecar

A reinsurance structure designed to allow capital to be invested in longevity risk by external investors.

Silent generation

People born between the mid-1920s and the mid-1940s; the term is believed to refer to the focus of this group on careers over activism.

Socio-economic group

In the context of longevity, it is any grouping by social or economic factors that could lead to homogeneous groups with different longevity experience.

Standard table

A published mortality base table, usually constructed using a large data set believed to be relevant to a number of users.

Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada is the Canadian government agency commissioned with producing statistics to help better understand Canada, its population, resources, economy, society, and culture.

Stress testing

A risk management technique applied to longevity risk where the effect of a given change or ‘stress’ to longevity is measured.

Survival analysis

A branch of statistics that analyzes the expected amount of time until one or more events happen.

Survival curve

A statistical graph of the survival experience or expectation of a population, showing the proportion surviving (or expected to survive) by age, or over time.

T

Term assurance

A life insurance product that pays out in the event of death within a specified time period (referred to as the ‘term’).

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)

A long-term data set on the dynamics of health, social, wellbeing and economic circumstances in the English population aged 50 and older.

Tontine

An early form of investment vehicle that combines features of a group annuity, group life assurance and lottery.

Top slicing

A process common in the UK of buying annuity policies for retirees with the highest pensions in a pension plan. The aim is to reduce the concentration of risk and the idiosyncratic risk in the pension plan.

Trend risk

The risk that mortality rates decrease (or increase) at a different rate to that assumed, resulting in people living for different lengths of time than predicted.

V

Vaupel, James

James Vaupel is an American demographer. He is a leading proponent of the idea of the plasticity of longevity and has argued strongly against the idea of a limit to human life expectancy.

Viatical settlement

An alternative name for a life settlement.

VitaCurves

VitaCurves is a rating factor model updated annually by Club Vita in the UK, Canada and the US.

VitaHedge

Club Vita has worked closely with the reinsurance industry to provide an indicative longevity swap price, called VitaHedge, within our regular reporting. Currently only available in the UK, but with a plan to roll out in Canada and the US.

VitaSegments

VitaSegments are a way of segmenting the population into different groups that are experiencing longevity trends in different ways.

W

Whittaker-Henderson

The Whittaker-Henderson model is a mathematical tool which is used to analyze and extrapolate trends in historical mortality.

Z

ZIP code baseline model

A particular type of rating factor model used in the US which uses ZIP codes as a rating factor to reflect different longevity experience for people living in different areas.

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