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Effects of the characteristics of neighbourhoods and the characteristics of people on cause specific mortality: a register based follow up study of 252 000 men
  1. P Martikainen1,2,
  2. T M Kauppinen1,
  3. T Valkonen1
  1. 1Population Research Unit, Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2International Centre for Health and Society, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P Martikainen, Population Research Unit, Department of Sociology, PO Box 18, FIN-00014, University of Helsinki, Finland;


Study objective: To assess the strength of the associations between neighbourhood characteristics and mortality, after adjusting for individual characteristics.

Design and setting: 1990 census records of over 25 year old men in the Helsinki Metropolitan area linked to death records in 1991–1995; almost 1.22 million person years and 15 000 deaths. Individual characteristics were education, occupation based social class, housing tenure, housing density, and living arrangements. Proportion of manual workers, proportion of over 60 year olds, and social cohesion were measured for 55 small areas, and SAS Glimmix was used to fit multilevel models.

Main results: Men in areas with high proportion of manual workers and low social cohesion have high mortality, particularly among 25–64 year olds. About 70% of this excess mortality is explained by compositional differences of people living in these areas. Accidents and violence, circulatory diseases, and alcohol related causes contribute most to these area effects. Area characteristics do not consistently modify or mediate the effects of individual socioeconomic characteristics on mortality.

Conclusions: As compared with individual characteristics neighbourhood characteristics have modest independent effects on male mortality. Furthermore, individual socioeconomic characteristics are associated with mortality independently of area characteristics. Rather than the characteristics of areas, other social contexts, such as peer groups and family settings may be more fruitful targets for further research and policy on contextual effects on mortality.

  • neighbourhood
  • mortality

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  • Funding: the study has been supported by the Academy of Finland (grant 41498, 70631 and 48600) and the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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