European Standard Population

European standard population (ESP2013) note

Eurostat, the statistical institute of the European Union, decided at the end of 2012 to
bring the European standard population structure up to date. Now age
standardised rates are based on the new European Standardised Population (ESP
2013). This is an artificial population structure that is used in the weighting
of mortality or incidence data to produce age-standardised rates (ASRs). A
standard population is used to provide comparisons between regions and over
time with different age structures. The previous ESP was introduced in 1976. Following
discussion with member states, ESP 2013 was created using an average of member states’
population projections for 2011 – 2030.

There are two important details to note when using statistics based on ESP 2013.

  1. Because the 2013 ESP is weighted more heavily towards older ages than the 1976 ESP, and most illnesses occur older ages, there is a significant increase in most age standardised rates when using the 2013 ESP in Ireland, due to the relatively young population in comparison with other European countries. For example, most cancers are more likely to occur in older age and thus higher incidence rates will be observed under 2013 ESP.
  2. It is important to bear in mind that due to the introduction of the new European standard population, it is not appropriate to compare the age standardised rates based on 2013 ESP with those based on 1976 ESP.

Age standardisation is one of the key methods to control for different age distributions
among populations or over time. Comparing crude rates can be misleading in
terms of trends when the age composition in a population changes over time or
when comparing groups or regions with different age-structures

The 2013 ESP is a better reflection of the current European population structure
than the 1976 ESP for two reasons. Firstly, the 2013 ESP gives older ages a
greater weighting than the 1976 ESP and secondly, the 1976 ESP has an upper age
band of 85+ years, whereas the 2013 ESP contains age bands of 85-89, 90-94 and
95+. It should be noted, however, that the structure of the Irish population at
present is younger than that of other EU Member States.