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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Association of socioeconomic and behavioral factors with adult mortality: analysis of data from verbal autopsy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Awoke Misganaw1*, Damen Haile Mariam2 and Tekebash Araya1

Author Affiliations

1 Addis Ababa Mortality Surveillance Program, College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2 School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:634  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-634

Published: 8 July 2013



Changes in socioeconomic status, lifestyle and behavioral factors among the urban population in Ethiopia is resulting in a shift in the causes of mortality.

We used verbal autopsy data from 2006 to 2009 to measure the association of socioeconomic and behavioral factors with causes of mortality in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


A total of 49,309 deaths from burial surveillance were eligible for verbal autopsy for the years 2006 to 2009. Among these, 10% (4,931) were drawn randomly for verbal autopsy of which 91% (4,494) were adults of age ≥15 years. Verbal autopsies, used to identify causes of death and frequency of risk factors, were completed for 3,709 (83%) of the drawn sample.


According to the results of the verbal autopsy, non-communicable diseases caused 1,915 (51%) of the total adult deaths, while communicable diseases and injuries caused 1,566 (42%) and 233 (6%) of the deaths respectively.

Overall, frequent alcohol (12%) and tobacco consumption (7%) were highly prevalent among the deceased individuals; both because of communicable diseases (HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis) as well as due to non-communicable diseases (malignancy, cardiovascular and chronic liver diseases). HIV/AIDS (AOR = 2.14, 95% CI [1.52-3.00], p < 0.001) and chronic liver diseases (AOR = 3.09, 95% CI [1.95-4.89], p < 0.001) were significantly associated with frequent alcohol consumption, while tuberculosis was associated with both frequent alcohol (AOR = 1.61, 95% CI [1.15-2.24], p = 0.005) and tobacco consumption (AOR = 1.67, 95% CI [1.13-2.47], p < 0.010). Having low educational status, being female and being within the age range of 25 to 44 years were positively associated with HIV/AIDS related mortality. Individuals aged 45 years and above were 3 to 6 times more likely to have died due to cardiovascular diseases compared with those within the 15 to 24 years age group.


The findings from the analysis suggest that public health interventions targeting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, as well as non-communicable diseases need to consider behavioral factors related to alcohol, tobacco and khat consumption. We also recommend large scale national level studies to further assess the specific contributions of these risk factors to the burden of mortality in the country.

Verbal autopsy; Socioeconomic factors; Tobacco; Alcohol; Khat; Adult deaths; Causes of mortality; Ethiopia