Increased mortality rate and suicide in Swedish former elite male athletes in power sports

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Dec;24(6):1000-5. doi: 10.1111/sms.12122. Epub 2013 Sep 12.


Physical training has been shown to reduce mortality in normal subjects, and athletes have a healthier lifestyle after their active career as compared with normal subjects. Since the 1950s, the use of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) has been frequent, especially in power sports. The aim of the present study was to investigate mortality, including causes of death, in former Swedish male elite athletes, active 1960-1979, in wrestling, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and the throwing events in track and field when the suspicion of former AAS use was high. Results indicate that, during the age period of 20-50 years, there was an excess mortality of around 45%. However, when analyzing the total study period, the mortality was not increased. Mortality from suicide was increased 2-4 times among the former athletes during the period of 30-50 years of age compared with the general population of men. Mortality rate from malignancy was lower among the athletes. As the use of AAS was marked between 1960 and 1979 and was not doping-listed until 1975, it seems probable that the effect of AAS use might play a part in the observed increased mortality and suicide rate. The otherwise healthy lifestyle among the athletes might explain the low malignancy rates.

Keywords: AAS; anabolic androgenic steroids malignancy; elite athletes; mortality; power sports; suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cause of Death*
  • Doping in Sports
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Track and Field / statistics & numerical data*
  • Weight Lifting / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wrestling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult


  • Anabolic Agents