History of the project


In 1988 Les causes de décès en France de 1925 à 1978 was published at INED by Jacques Vallin and France Meslé.It was the result of the first systematic attempt to reconstruct coherent time series of deaths by cause under the rules of the most recent classification in use. Until then it had been quite impossible to follow long term changes in the cause-of-death structure of mortality for any country, as successive changes in the classification of causes of death resulted in more or less dramatic disruptions in the statistical series. The only possibility was to limit analyses, both at the level of very large groups of causes roughly comparable (but still at risk of misleading observed trends) and for short periods of time (those periods during which the same classification is used). As a result of this INED work, it became possible to follow half a century of French mortality changes quite precisely.

This work soon draw the attention of a team directed by Anatoli Vishnevsky, head of the Centre for Demography and Human Ecology in Russia, and a common project was undertaken at the time when USSR archives were opened within the framework of the Gorbachev's Glasnost in 1985. That project, designed in collaboration with Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, started at the level of the USSR but, quite soon it became apparent that it would make more sense to work separately for each Soviet Republic, even before they became independent with the split of the USSR in 1991. A first reconstruction was made for Russia for the period 1965-1994, the results of which were published as an issue of the INED series Données statistiques (Meslé et al., 1996).Later similar collaborative works were undertaken for Ukraine with Serhii Pyrozhkov (Meslé, Vallin, 2003, 2008, 2012), for the three Baltic countries with Kalev Katus, Juris Krumins, Domantas Jasilionis, and Vlada Stankuniene, and also for two Caucasus countries (Armenia and Georgia) with Irina Badurashvili and Karine Kuyumjyan, always within the joint INED-CDHE team. In 2000-03 the project received some support from the EU INTAS program.

At this stage, the work attracted the interest of several individual researchers, Markéta Pechholdova from Czech Republic, Olga Penina from Moldova, Agnieszka Fihel from Poland, Pavel Grigoriev from Belarus, each of whom were ready to reconstruct a series for their own countries. This provided encouragement to submit a common INED-MPIDR project, European Divergence and Convergence in Causes of Death (EDICCOD), within the framework of the French-German call launched by ANR-DFG in 2007. This funding allowed us to expand the systematic time series reconstruction to a larger group of European countries and to start East-West comparisons.

Finally, two new important sources of financial support, the AXA Research Fund (the Divergence and Causes of Death (MODICOD) project) and once again the ANR-DFG program (the Diverging Trends in Mortality and Future Health Challenges DIMOCHA project), provided the means for a further extension to new countries (especially the USA, Japan, England & Wales, Spain, Romania) and to longer time series, with the main objective to solve the difficult problem to shift from ICD-9 to ICD-10. According to the MODICOD objectives, this new step resulted in the production of coherent series (according to ICD-10) from the late 1970s or early 1980s (depending on the country) to the most recently available data, in 17 countries. However, for a smaller number of countries, according to the DIMOCHA project objectives, longer series were reconstructed for periods as long as possible, depending on available or workable data. All these reconstructed data will enter the Human Cause-of-Death Database, progressively, starting at its launch in March 2016 with the 16 following countries for at least a part of the total period that will be covered at the end of both the MODICOD and DIMOCHA projects: Belarus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, England & Wales, USA. Temporary difficulties prevent us from immediately including series for Eastern and Western Germany.


  1. Meslé, F., Shkolnikov, V. M., Hertrich, V., & Vallin, J. (1996). Tendances récentes de la mortalité par cause en Russie 1965-1994. Série: Données statistiques No 2. Paris: INED.
  2. Meslé, F. & Vallin, J. (2003). Mortalité et causes de décès en Ukraine au XXe siécle: la crise sanitaire dans les pays de l'ex-URSS. Paris, Les Cahiers de l'INED, 152.
  3. Meslé, F., & Vallin, J. (2008). Cмepтнicть тa пpичини cмepтi в Ukpaiнi у XX cтoлiттi [Mortalité et causes de décès en Ukraine au XXe siècle] (416 p). Kiev: INED et IDSS (with contributions by Vladimir Shkolnikov, Serhii Pyrozhkov and Serguei Adamets).
  4. Meslé, F. & Vallin, J. (2012). Reconstructing series of deaths by cause with constant definitions. In Mortality and Causes of death in 20th-Century Ukraine. Demographic Research Monographs: a series of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. pp. 131-152.
  5. Vallin, J., & Meslé, F. (1988). Les causes de décès en France de 1925 à 1978 (Travaux et Documents, No.115, 608 p.). Paris: INED/PUF.