Background: Research has revealed mortality differences between marital status groups in different societies and different periods of time. Due to the increase in consensual unions, living alone and other changes in living arrangements, it is necessary to apply a more detailed classification of living arrangements that incorporates partnership situation and household composition.
Methods: We analyse mortality by cause-of-death in the total Finnish population aged 30 or over in 1996-2000. The linked register dataset includes 15.7 million person-years and 210,139 deaths.
Results: In the working aged population, cohabiters had nearly 70% excess mortality when compared with married people. Among working aged men living with someone other than a partner and among men living alone, mortality was three times higher than among married men. Among women, mortality in these groups was close to that of cohabiters. In the older population, mortality in the other groups was 15-40% higher than among married persons. Adjusting for education, social class and employment status attenuated the mortality differences by 7-31%. Having no children was associated with excess mortality in working aged women and men in each living arrangement group. The relative differences were greatest in deaths from alcohol-related causes, followed by deaths from accidents among men and working aged women and lung cancer in women.
Conclusions: We observed wide mortality differences according to living arrangements, particularly among the working aged. These differences were partly explained by socioeconomic factors. Excessive alcohol use seems to be one major cause of mortality differences.