Prior studies have not accounted for male mortality being higher in east than west Finland. Efforts to identify the mechanisms producing higher mortality in the east, due primarily to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), initially focused on a search for new risk factors. An alternate approach is to examine the assumptions of the analysis. This was investigated using a model which described (a) changes in risk factors over time, (b) dependency of risk factor effects on age, and (c) interactions and nonlinear effects of risk factors on mortality. The model was applied to 25-year follow-up data from cohorts of eastern (N = 823) and western (N = 888) Finnish men using pulse pressure, diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, total cholesterol, vital capacity index, cigarette smoking, and heart rate as risk factors. At age 40, men in the west had a life expectancy 2.4 years higher. Of the difference 29% (0.7 years) was associated with area differences in risk factor means, variances, and their change with age. The remainder, 1.7 years, was associated with age differences in the relation of risk factor interactions to CVD mortality. Possible reasons for these differences, such as joint elevation of several risk factors inducing rapid progression of atherogenesis, are discussed. No significant area differences were observed for mortality from either cancer or other causes.