Health deficiencies in Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1950-1995

Epidemiology. 1999 Sep;10(5):495-9.


Cape Breton County contains one of the most polluted areas in North America and is socioeconomically depressed. We evaluated mortality patterns in this area over the past 5 decades, focusing on life expectancy and life loss. Life loss refers to the difference in life expectancy of Cape Breton County residents and all Canadians, and was further broken down into disease-specific components using cause-eliminated life table methods. We observed lags in health of 20 to 25 years for residents of Cape Breton County. Life expectancy in some municipalities of Cape Breton County is reduced by more than 5 years. Life loss for these residents is greater than that of any single cause of death for Canadians. Life loss among Cape Breton County women is primarily attributable to cancer, and, among men, to cardiovascular diseases. Life loss from cancer is higher in the steel-producing communities; whereas life loss from respiratory diseases and lung cancer is higher in the coal mining communities. These (and other) decompositions of life loss disclose patterns in health deficiencies that give rise to etiologic hypotheses and provide clues and directions for prevention and interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Expectancy / trends*
  • Life Tables
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Nova Scotia / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Time Factors