In the period 1960-2000, male and female life expectancy in Spain's Autonomous Region of Catalonia increased by 8.2 and 10.5 years, respectively, thus raising it to among one of the highest in the world. Initially, most gains were due to lower infant mortality, but as cardiovascular diseases declined, this later shifted to advanced ages. Between the mid-1980s and early 1990s life expectancy improvements stagnated as the mortality risk from traffic accidents and HIV/AIDS in young adults increased. Both the age-delay in old age mortality and the simultaneous influence of behavior and lifestyle reflect distinct aspects of the fourth stage of the epidemiological transition. This analysis quantifies the age and cause-of-death contributions to changes and sex-differences in life expectancy in Catalonia. We then compare the most recent life table for women with the Duchene-Wunsch limited life table to estimate the potential gain in life expectancy if all deaths were aging-related and in which ages these improvements would fall. © 2009 Spijker & Blanes.