The ethno-linguistic community and premature death: a register based study of working-aged men in Finland

Jan M. Saarela, University of Helsinki and Åbo Akademi University
Fjalar Finnäs, Åbo Akademi University

One of the most striking features of premature death in Finland is the ethno-linguistic mortality gradient in working-aged men. Finnish speakers have a notably higher mortality risk than Swedish speakers. The underlying reasons are not fully clear, but one suggested explanation has been that the level of social integration is lower in the Finnish-speaking community than in the Swedish-speaking, as people in the former are geographically less rooted at the local level. In this paper we derive a proxy for the influence of the ethno-linguistic community as a contextual factor on the Finnish-Swedish mortality gradient. The strategy is based on a unique setup that makes it possible to identify people not only by their ethno-linguistic background and ethno-linguistic affiliation, but we indirectly know also in which community a person has been raised. Results of Cox regressions provide poor support for the contextual hypothesis, however, and rather suggest that latent individual characteristics such as hereditary factors might be important, hence illuminating the complexity behind the excess mortality of Finnish speakers.

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Presented in Session 23: Mortality in subpopulations