The Changing Contribution of Smoking to Educational Differences in Life Expectancy: Estimates for Finnish Men and Women from 1971 to 2005

Pekka Martikainen, University of Helsinki
Jessica Y. Ho, University of Pennsylvania

Smoking remains one of the major causes of mortality and of social differentials in mortality in high income countries. However, less is known about its contribution to changes in mortality differentials. We present estimates of the contribution of smoking attributable mortality to life expectancy differences at age 50 by educational attainment for the Finnish population from 1971 to 2005. Our estimates are based on an indirect method developed by Preston, Glei, and Wilmoth in 2010. At age 50, life-expectancy differentials between basic and higher educated men increased from 3.4 years to 4.4 years. In the absence of smoking attributable deaths these differences would have been 1.5 and 3.1 years, 60% and 25% less than those observed. Among women the contribution of smoking to educational differentials was small; it increased from essentially no difference to about 0.3 years of the total 2.7 year difference in the early 2000s.

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Presented in Session 169: Health Behaviors, Health, and Mortality