Aims: To assess to what extent alcohol-related mortality has changed by age, sex and education in Finland in 1987-2003, a period which saw two periods of economic growth, separated by a severe depression (1991-1995).
Methods: A register-based follow-up study of all over 15-year-old Finnish men and women. Age, sex and education of the participants were measured at the time of the 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000 censuses. Follow-up for mortality was for 1987-2003. The outcome measure was alcohol-related mortality, which was defined using information on the underlying and contributory causes of death.
Results: Among men and women aged 45 years and over, the trends in alcohol-related mortality were associated with economic cycles. Among those aged less than 45 years, alcohol-related mortality decreased from the early 1990s, but intoxication-related accidents and violence still contributed largely to premature mortality. The unfavourable trend for older men resulted from an increase in mortality due to directly alcohol-attributable diseases, alcohol-related diseases of the circulatory system and accidents and violence, and for older women from an increase due to intoxication-related accidents and violence, and alcohol-attributable diseases. Alcohol-related mortality was higher in lower educational groups, and among women the educational gap widened towards the end of the study period.
Conclusions: This study shows that trends in both economic conditions and per capita consumption of alcohol are not associated with trends in alcohol-related mortality in all population subgroups. In health policy more attention should be paid to divergent trends in gender, age and education specific alcohol-related mortality.