In this paper we analyze and characterize the evolution of mortality in Portugal since 1950 based on a selected set of indicators, and contextualize these trends within the framework of a set of Western European countries. First we analyze the evolution of life expectancy at birth in Portugal as a synthesis indicator of mortality. Then we proceed to the analysis of mortality by age groups and causes of death.
Finally, we analyze the relative contributions of the various ages and causes of death to the increase in life expectancy at birth over the period. We conclude that, despite the extraordinary gains in life expectancy at birth, Portugal still has a relatively weak position in the male population while women are approaching the median value of the set of countries considered. The gains in mortality, which in the middle of the twentieth century were concentrated at younger ages, are currently concentrated in the elderly. Men are still benefitting from significant reductions in mortality at young adult ages
(20 to 39 years). The analysis of the rates of decline of mortality also suggests that a particular generation of males did not experience improvements in mortality over a specific period of time, and even showed increases in mortality rates. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Portugal throughout the period, although in the last two decades we have observed substantial gains
in mortality due to these diseases especially at ages above 50 years old, in particular from 60 to 79, for men and women. Finally, and contrary to what happens in countries with higher life expectancies, we conclude that the reduction in mortality, in particular due to circulatory diseases, is not yet being offset by the increase in mortality from cancer.
Keywords: mortality, life expectancy, causes of death