OBJECTIVE: To analyse trends in mortality inequalities in Barcelona between 1983 and 1994 by comparing rates in those electoral wards with a low socioeconomic level and rates in the remaining wards. DESIGN: Mortality trends study. SETTING: The city of Barcelona (Spain). SUBJECTS: The study included all deaths among residents of the two groups of city wards. Details were obtained from death certificates. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Age standardised mortality rates, age standardised rates of years of potential life lost, and age specific mortality rates in relation to cause of death, sex, and year were computed as well as the comparative mortality figure and the ratio of standardised rates of years of potential life lost. RESULTS: Rates of premature mortality increased from 5691.2 years of potential life lost per 100,000 inhabitants aged 1 to 70 years in 1983 to 7606.2 in 1994 in the low socioeconomic level wards, and from 3731.2 to 4236.9 in the other wards, showing an increase in inequalities over the 12 years, mostly due to AIDS and drug overdose as causes of death. Conversely, cerebrovascular disease showed a reduction in inequality over the same period. Overall mortality in the 15-44 age group widened the gap between both groups of wards. CONCLUSION: AIDS and drug overdose are emerging as the causes of death that are contributing to a substantial increase in social inequality in terms of premature mortality, an unreported observation in European urban areas.
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