Analysis of life expectancy using linear and nonlinear models

Hyunsoo Hwang, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Life expectancy has consistently increased over the last 150 years due to improvements in nutrition, medicine, and public health. Several studies found that in many developed countries, life expectancy continued to rise following a nearly linear trend, which was contrary to a common belief that the rate of improvement in life expectancy would decelerate and was fit with an S-shaped curve. Using samples of countries that exhibited a wide range of economic development levels, we explored the change in life expectancy over time by employing both nonlinear and linear models. We then observed if there were any significant differences in estimates between linear models, assuming an auto-correlated error structure. When data did not have a sigmoidal shape, nonlinear growth models sometimes failed to provide meaningful parameter estimates. The existence of an inflection point and asymptotes in the growth models made them inflexible with life expectancy data. In linear models, there was no significant difference in the life expectancy growth rate and future estimates between ordinary least squares (OLS) and generalized least squares (GLS). However, the generalized least squares model was more robust because the data involved time-series variables and residuals were positively correlated.

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Recommended Citation

Hwang, Hyunsoo, "Analysis of life expectancy using linear and nonlinear models" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1519641.