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Conceptualising the mortality divide in Germany: towards an interdisciplinary analysis
  1. Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Bielefeld, PO Box 10 01 31, D 33501 Bielefeld, Germany
  1. Professor Laaser (u.laaser{at}

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Why should we know about trends in mortality? Simply, because we want to control them as life expectancy is considered the most relevant health indicator. And here the trouble starts: there are too many determinants affecting health in different combinations at different historical times. During the cold war the “big simplifiers” used every information to argue in favour of either one system completely ignoring the complexity of the issue. After 1989 the collapse of the Soviet system seemed to prove the superiority of the Western model of health care—especially to Germans on both sides of the former Iron Curtain. However, it is difficult, at the least to say, to compare a system operating with extremely limited financial means to another one having enough resources to waste them abundantly. The features of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) system of health care has never got a chance to be tested under the more favourable economic conditions after the change of 1989, in Germany referred to as the “Wende”.

Several hypotheses have been brought forward to explain the …

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