Background: We know very little about social inequalities in mortality in Norway. The "Urban Health" project opens up the possibility of studying this issue for the whole population of Oslo.
Material and methods: In a linked file of all deaths in 1990-94 and the census of 1980 for all inhabitants in Oslo we have calculated death rates across five occupational classes in the age group 50-69 years. In order to compare with class-specific mortality in England and Wales we obtained similar data from National Statistics.
Results: Unskilled workers had considerably higher mortality rates than high-ranked employees in this population, 1.60 times higher for women and 1.92 times higher for men. In the three strata in between, mortality showed a smooth stepwise pattern which was steepest for age groups 35-69 for men and 50-69 for women.
Interpretation: Social inequalities in mortality are distinct in Oslo. For men the results were strikingly similar in Oslo and Britain; for women the inequality was smaller in Oslo. Comparing a city with a whole country is of limited interest, but the results are remarkable and call for further research. Some possible explanations of these similarities and dissimilarities in mortality in the two areas are discussed.