OBJECTIVES: A considerable increase in social inequalities in mortality was observed in Eastern Europe during the post-communist transition. This study evaluated the contribution of avoidable causes of death to the difference in life expectancy between Estonians and non-Estonians in Estonia.
STUDY DESIGN: Descriptive study.
METHODS: Temporary life expectancy (TLE) was calculated for Estonian and non-Estonian men and women aged 0-74 years in 2005-2007. The ethnic TLE gap was decomposed by age and cause of death (classified as preventable or treatable).
RESULTS: The TLE of non-Estonian men was 3.53 years less than that of Estonian men, and the TLE of non-Estonian women was 1.36 years less than that of Estonian women. Preventable causes of death contributed 2.19 years to the gap for men and 0.78 years to the gap for women, while treatable causes contributed 0.67 and 0.33 years, respectively. Cardiorespiratory conditions were the major treatable causes of death, with ischaemic heart disease alone contributing 0.29 and 0.08 years to the gap for men and women, respectively. Conditions related to alcohol and substance use represented the largest proportion of preventable causes of death.
CONCLUSIONS: Inequalities in health behaviours underlie the ethnic TLE gap in Estonia, rather than inequalities in access to health care or the quality of health care. Public health interventions should prioritize primary prevention aimed at alcohol and substance use, and should be implemented in conjunction with wider social policy measures.
2011. Vol. 125, no 11, 754-762 p.