Oral contraceptives and life expectancy

Stud Fam Plann. May-Jun 1986;17(3):117-25.

Abstract

Life expectancy for women in the United States is 77.34 years; women who take oral contraceptives (OCs) for five years before the age of 30 can expect to live about four days longer. This is due primarily to protection against ovarian and endometrial cancers. For women taking pills for five years in their thirties there is a maximum loss of 18 days on the average that is attributable to OC use, and for women over 45 this rises to 80 days. The decreased life expectancy is due mainly to the increased mortality from myocardial infarction and stroke. This is substantially less than life lost due to use of a variety of other substances, most notably tobacco.

PIP: This report combines early and late mortality effects of oral contraceptives into a life table analysis based on epidemiological evidence using US data. An association between oral contraceptives and disease is included only if demonstrated by at least 2 previous independent studies; those included in the study are: pregnancy complications, cancer (ovarian, endometrial, cervical), cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease, pelvic inflammatory disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. The model assumes women who use oral contraceptives continuously for 5 years and then stop, and compares this with a base population of US women aged 15-49 who are not using oral contraceptives. Results drawn from these data are that oral contraceptives taken for 5 years have no effect on life expectancy of women under 30; 5 years of use during the 30's reduces average life expectancy by 7-22 days; and among older women (over 40) life expectancy decreases up to 88 days. Protective effects of oral contraceptives against reproductive cancers cancels out risks due to myocardial infarction and stroke. This model does not account for different risks of smokers and non-smokers, therefore the small differences in longevity are probably exaggerated. The decreased life expectancy is due mainly to the increased mortality from myocardial infarction and stroke. This is substantially less than life lost due to use of a variety of other substances, most notably tobacco.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / epidemiology
  • Contraceptives, Oral* / administration & dosage
  • Contraceptives, Oral* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Gallbladder Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / chemically induced
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / epidemiology
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced
  • Risk
  • United States
  • Uterine Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Uterine Neoplasms / prevention & control

Substances

  • Contraceptives, Oral