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Mortality differences by parental social class from childhood to adulthood
  1. Tiina H Pensola,
  2. Tapani Valkonen
  1. Population Research Unit, Department of Sociology, PO Box 18, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
  1. Tiina Pensola (tiina.pensola{at}


STUDY OBJECTIVE To examine mortality differences by parental social class and cause of death from age 5 to age 34.

DESIGN Register-based follow up study based on census records for 1985 and 1990 linked with death records for the period 1987–95.

SETTING AND SUBJECTS The study covers all males and females in non-manual and manual classes in Finland aged 5–34 years in 1987–95 (8135 deaths). Parental social class is defined on the basis of the occupation of the head of household at the time the child was 0–14 years.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES All cause mortality, mortality from diseases, mortality from accidents and violence, and alcohol related mortality during the period 1987–95.

MAIN RESULTS At ages 5–14 there is no systematic gradient in mortality by parental social class. Both absolute and relative differences increase with age. The relative rate of male all cause mortality among manual class descendants at ages 25–29 compared with that of upper non-manual class descendants is 1.60 (95% CI 1.37, 1.86). At ages 30–34 the relative rate among males is 1.95 (95 % CI 1.58, 2.42) and among females 1.47 (95% CI 1.03, 2.10). Among males alcohol related causes of death account for 70% of the excess mortality of sons of manual class parents compared with sons of upper non-manual class parents at ages 25–34. At ages 25–34, both among females and males, the contribution of diseases to the mortality difference increases.

CONCLUSIONS Parental social class has an impact on mortality after childhood mainly through health related behaviours and lifestyles up to age 34.

  • social class
  • mortality differences

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  • Funding: we are indebted to the Academy of Finland (grant 41498) for funding the study and to Statistics Finland for granting access to the data set (permission TK 53–1783–96).

  • Conflicts of interest: none.