Statistical features of persistence and long memory in mortality data

Gareth W. Peters*, Hongxuan Yan, Jennifer Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding core statistical properties and data features in mortality data are fundamental to the development of machine learning methods for demographic and actuarial applications of mortality projection. The study of statistical features in such data forms the basis for classification, regression and forecasting tasks. In particular, the understanding of key statistical structure in such data can aid in improving accuracy in undertaking mortality projection and forecasting when constructing life tables. The ability to accurately forecast mortality is a critical aspect for the study of demography, life insurance product design and pricing, pension planning and insurance-based decision risk management. Though many stylised facts of mortality data have been discussed in the literature, we provide evidence for a novel statistical feature that is pervasive in mortality data at a national level that is as yet unexplored. In this regard, we demonstrate in this work a strong evidence for the existence of long memory features in mortality data, and second that such long memory structures display multifractality as a statistical feature that can act as a discriminator of mortality dynamics by age, gender and country. To achieve this, we first outline the way in which we choose to represent the persistence of long memory from an estimator perspective. We make a natural link between a class of long memory features and an attribute of stochastic processes based on fractional Brownian motion. This allows us to use well established estimators for the Hurst exponent to then robustly and accurately study the long memory features of mortality data. We then introduce to mortality analysis the notion from data science known as multifractality. This allows us to study the long memory persistence features of mortality data on different timescales. We demonstrate its accuracy for sample sizes commensurate with national-level age term structure historical mortality records. A series of synthetic studies as well a comprehensive analysis of real mortality death count data are studied in order to demonstrate the pervasiveness of long memory structures in mortality data, both mono-fractal and multifractal functional features are verified to be present as stylised facts of national-level mortality data for most countries and most age groups by gender. We conclude by demonstrating how such features can be used in kernel clustering and mortality model forecasting to improve these actuarial applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-317
Number of pages27
JournalAnnals of Actuarial Science
Issue number2
Early online date11 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Hurst exponent
  • Long memory
  • Mortality projection
  • Persistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


Dive into the research topics of 'Statistical features of persistence and long memory in mortality data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this