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Risk of premature mortality due to smoking, alcohol use, obesity and physical activity varies by income: a population-based cohort study


Background — Premature deaths are a strong population health indicator. There is a persistent and widening pattern of income inequities for premature mortality. We sought to understand the combined effect of health behaviours and income on premature mortality in a large population-based cohort.

Methods — We analyzed a cohort of 121,197 adults in the 2005–2014 Canadian Community Health Surveys, linked to vital statistics data to ascertain deaths for up to 5 years following baseline. Information on household income quintile and mortality-relevant risk factors (smoking status, alcohol use, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity) was captured from the survey. Hazard ratios (HR) for combined income-risk factor groups were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models. Stratified Cox models were used to identify quintile-specific HR for each risk factor.

Results — For each risk factor, HR of premature mortality was highest in the lowest-income, highest-risk group. Additionally, an income gradient was seen for premature mortality HR for every exposure level of each risk factor. In the stratified models, risk factor HRs did not vary meaningfully between income groups. All findings were consistent in the unadjusted and adjusted models.

Conclusion — These findings highlight the need for targeted strategies to reduce health inequities and more careful attention to how policies and interventions are distributed at the population level. This includes targeting and tailoring resources to those in lower income groups who disproportionately experience premature mortality risk to prevent further widening health inequities.



Rosella LC, Buajitti E. SSM Popul Health. 2024; 25:101638. Epub 2024 Feb 19.

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