Geographic ancestry and cause-specific mortality in a national population

Jan M. Saarela, Åbo Akademi University
Fjalar Finnäs, Åbo Akademi University

This paper is concerned with how geographic ancestry, as proxied by persons’ population group and birth region, interrelates with cause-specific mortality in Finland, focusing on people aged between their mid-thirties and late-forties. Many previous studies have argued that mortality variation across population groups and regions in Finland reflect some aspects of culture and thus differentials in lifestyles. However, no exhaustive empirical explanation has yet been provided. Here we treat the two mortality features in the similar setting in order to illuminate the potential role of genetic predisposal. The longitudinal population register data used offer opportunities to account for variables that represent both the individuals’ social background and own social status at young adult age. Results of Cox proportional hazard models reveal that these measures for ecological and behavioural circumstances generally have substantial effects on mortality of different causes. Their impact on the variation in death rates across population groups and birth regions is fairly modest, however. The geographic mortality pattern is further found to be more pronounced for causes of death that can be assumed fairly unrelated to persons’ lifestyles. In our opinion, these results strongly support the view that variation in genetic predisposal within the population of Finland may underlie mortality differentials.

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Presented in Session 97: Geography of Mortality