Trends in mortality and life expectancy in Fiji over 20 years
Catherine Dearie, Christine Linhart, Eric Rafai, Devina Nand, Stephen Morrell, Richard Taylor
BMC Public Health
Background Fiji, a Pacific Island nation of 884,887 (2017 census), has experienced a prolonged epidemiological transition. This study examines trends in mortality and life expectancy (LE) in Fiji by sex and ethnicity over 1996–2017, with comparisons to published estimates. Methods Trends in infant mortality rates (IMR), under-5 mortality (U5M), adult mortality (probability of dying), LE (at birth) and directly age-standardised death rates (DASRs) by sex and ethnicity, are calculated (with 95%
... nfidence limits) using unit death records from the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services. The LE gap between populations, or within populations over time, is examined using decomposition by age. Period trends are assessed for statistical significance using linear regression. Results Over 1996–98 to 2014–17: IMR and U5M for i-Taukei and Fijians of Indian descent declined; U5M decline for i-Taukei (24.6 to 20.1/1000 live births) was significant (p = 0.016). Mortality (15–59 years) for i-Taukei males was unchanged at 27% but declined for Indians 33 to 30% (p = 0.101). Mortality for i-Taukei females increased 22 to 24% (p = 0.011) but declined for Indians 20 to 18% (p = 0.240). DASRs 1996–2017 were lower for i-Taukei (9.3 to 8.2/1000 population) than Indian males (10.6 to 9.8/1000). DASRs declined for i-Taukei (both sexes, p < 0.05), and for Indians (both sexes, p > 0.05). Over 22 years, LE at birth increased by 1 year or less (p = 0.030 in male i-Taukei). In 2014–17, LE (years) for males was: i-Taukei 64.9, Indians 63.5; and females: i-Taukei 67.0 and Indians 68.2. Mortality changes in most 5-year age groups increased or decreased the LE gap less than 10 weeks over 22 years. Compared to international agency reports, 2014–17 empirical LE estimates (males 64.7, females 67.8) were lower, as was IMR. Conclusions Based on empirical data, LE in Fiji has minimally improved over 1996–2017, and is lower than some international agencies report. Adult mortality was higher in Indian than i-Taukei men, and higher in i-Taukei than Indian women. Exclusion of stillbirths resulted in IMRs lower than previously reported. Differing mortality trends in subgroups highlight the need to collect census and health data by ethnicity and sex, to monitor health outcomes and inform resource allocation.