Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Contribution of main causes of death to social inequalities in mortality in the whole population of Scania, Sweden

Maria Rosvall1*, Basile Chaix23, John Lynch4, Martin Lindström1 and Juan Merlo2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, Lund University, Malmö University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden

2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Malmö University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden

3 Research Unit in Epidemiology, Information Systems, and Modelisation (INSERM U707), National Institute of Health and Medical Research, Paris, France

4 Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2006, 6:79  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-79

Published: 28 March 2006

Abstract

Background

To more efficiently reduce social inequalities in mortality, it is important to establish which causes of death contribute the most to socioeconomic mortality differentials. Few studies have investigated which diseases contribute to existing socioeconomic mortality differences in specific age groups and none were in samples of the whole population, where selection bias is minimized. The aim of the present study was to determine which causes of death contribute the most to social inequalities in mortality in each age group in the whole population of Scania, Sweden.

Methods

Data from LOMAS (Longitudinal Multilevel Analysis in Skåne) were used to estimate 12-year follow-up mortality rates across levels of socioeconomic position (SEP) and workforce participation in 975,938 men and women aged 0 to 80 years, during 1991–2002.

Results

The results generally showed increasing absolute mortality differences between those holding manual and non-manual occupations with increasing age, while there were inverted u-shaped associations when using relative inequality measures. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) contributed to 52% of the male socioeconomic difference in overall mortality, cancer to 18%, external causes to 4% and psychiatric disorders to 3%. The corresponding contributions in women were 55%, 21%, 2% and 3%. Additionally, those outside the workforce (i.e., students, housewives, disability pensioners, and the unemployed) showed a strongly increased risk of future mortality in all age groups compared to those inside the workforce. Even though coronary heart disease (CHD) played a major contributing role to the mortality differences seen, stroke and other types of cardiovascular diseases also made substantial contributions. Furthermore, while the most common types of cancers made substantial contributions to the socioeconomic mortality differences, in some age groups more than half of the differences in cancer mortality could be attributed to rarer cancers.

Conclusion

CHD made a major contribution to the socioeconomic differences in overall mortality. However, there were also important contributions from diseases with less well understood mechanistic links with SEP such as stroke and less-common cancers. Thus, an increased understanding of the mechanisms connecting SEP with more rare causes of disease might be important to be able to more successfully intervene on socioeconomic differences in health.