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AUC GEOGRAPHICA, Vol 59 No 1 (2024), 149–158

The COVID-19 pandemic as the next divergent phase of the East-West mortality gap in Europe

Adéla Pola, Klára Hulíková Tesárková

published online: 28. 06. 2024


This paper analyses the variability of life expectancy at birth in Europe after 1950. It aims to assess the development of the East- West mortality gap and to identify the sub-regions or countries that most influenced mortality divergent and convergent trends in Europe. To achieve the goals, European countries are divided into Western and Eastern according to their political history, and the squared coefficient of variation is used for analysis of variability. This measure is further decomposed into between- and within- group components. The results of the study show that there were 4 divergent periods during the study period associated with the delayed cardiovascular revolution and mortality crisis in Eastern Europe and the COVID-19 pandemic. Variability of mortality in Europe during the pandemic was the highest in comparison to all previous divergent periods. Throughout the studied period, the between-group variability was influenced by both the continual progress of Western Europe and the lagging of Eastern Europe, with both regions contributing more or less similarly. However, since the 1990s, in case of within-group variability, a strong dominance of Eastern Europe can be observed, and therefore post-socialist countries deserve special attention. The results also suggest that some longer-term trends in behavior and attitudes towards health may persist in society, and that in the case of an unexpected crisis, there is a greater risk of mortality divergence reappearing.

keywords: East-West mortality gap; life expectancy at birth; decomposition; post-socialist countries; COVID-19

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