Background: By describing ethnic differences in age- and cause-specific mortality in The Netherlands we aim to identify factors that determine whether ethnic minority groups have higher or lower mortality than the native population of the host country.
Methods: We used data for 1995-2000 from the municipal population registers and cause of death registry. All inhabitants of The Netherlands were included in the study. The mortality of people who themselves or whose parent(s) were born in Turkey, Morocco, Surinam, or the Dutch Antilles/Aruba was compared with that of the native Dutch population. Mortality differences were estimated by Poisson regression analyses and by directly standardized mortality rates.
Results: Compared with native Dutch men, mortality was higher among Turkish (relative risk [RR] = 1.21, 95% CI: 1.16, 1.26), Surinamese (RR = 1.24, 95% CI: 1.19, 1.29), and Antillean/Aruban (RR = 1.25, 95% CI: 1.15, 1.36) males, and lower among Moroccan males (RR = 0.85, 95% CI: 0.81, 0.90). Among females, inequalities in mortality were small. In general, mortality differences were influenced by socio-economic and marital status. Most minority groups had a high mortality at young ages and low mortality at older ages, a high mortality from ill-defined conditions (which is related to mortality abroad) and external causes, and a low mortality from neoplasms. Cardiovascular disease mortality was low among Moroccan males (RR = 0.51, 95% CI: 0.44, 0.59) and high among Surinamese males (RR = 1.13, 95% CI: 1.05, 1.21) and females (RR = 1.14, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.23). Homicide mortality was elevated in all groups.
Conclusion: Socio-economic factors and marital status were important determinants of ethnic inequalities in mortality in The Netherlands. Mortality from cardiovascular diseases, homicide, and mortality abroad were of particular importance for shifting the balance from high towards low all-cause mortality.