Volume 32 - Article 20 | Pages 589–620

The role of smoking on mortality compression: An analysis of Finnish occupational social classes, 1971-2010

By Alyson van Raalte, Mikko Myrskylä, Pekka Martikainen

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Date received:03 May 2014
Date published:25 Feb 2015
Word count:5133
Keywords:lifespan variation, mortality compression, mortality inequalities, smoking
Updated Items:On May 30, 2016 a correction on page 595 was made at the authors’ request.


Background: Adult lifespan variation has been stagnant since the 1960s in most developed countries, despite increases in longevity. However, national averages mask large socioeconomic differences. In Finland lifespan variation among the highest occupational class has continued to decline, while the lower classes have experienced stagnation.

Objective: We aimed to investigate the role that smoking has played in the occupational social class divergence in lifespan variation since the 1970s.

Methods: Finnish register data (1971-2010) by occupational social class, ages 50+, was used. Smoking-attributable mortality was estimated by the Preston, Glei, and Wilmoth (2010) method.

Results: We expected smoking-attributable mortality to explain the divergence by occupational class because smoking is socially patterned and particularly important for middle- and young-old-age mortality, ages which contribute greatly to lifespan variation. Instead, we found that among men social class differences would have widened even further without smoking; for women lifespan variation was unaffected by smoking.

Conclusions: The maturation of the smoking epidemic will not decrease uncertainty in the timing of death or reduce inequalities in this dimension of mortality by occupational class in Finland.

Author's Affiliation

Alyson van Raalte - Max-Planck-Institut für Demografische Forschung, Germany [Email]
Mikko Myrskylä - Max-Planck-Institut für Demografische Forschung, Germany [Email]
Pekka Martikainen - Helsingin Yliopisto (University of Helsinki), Finland [Email]

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