The role of smoking in country differences in life expectancy across Europe, 1985-2014

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Abstract

Introduction
Smoking contributes substantially to mortality levels and trends. Its role in country differences in mortality has, however, hardly been quantified. The current study formally assesses the—so far unknown—changing contribution of smoking to country differences in life expectancy at birth (e0) across Europe.
Methods
Using all-cause mortality data and indirectly estimated smoking-attributable mortality rates by age and sex for 30 European countries from 1985 to 2014, the differences in e0 between each individual European country and the weighted average were decomposed into a smoking- and a nonsmoking-related part.
Results
In 2014, e0 ranged from 70.8 years in Russia to 83.1 years in Switzerland. Men exhibited larger country differences than women (variance of 21.9 and 7.0 years, respectively). Country differences in e0 increased up to 2005 and declined thereafter. Among men, the average contribution of smoking to the country differences in e0 was highest around 1990 (47%) and declined to 35% in 2014. Among women, the average relative contribution of smoking declined from 1991 to 2011, and smoking resulted in smaller differences with the average e0 level in the majority of European countries. For both sexes combined, the contribution of smoking to country differences in e0 was higher than 20% throughout the period.
Conclusions
Smoking contributed substantially to the country differences in e0 in Europe, their increases up to 1991, and their decreases since 2005, especially among men. Policies that discourage smoking can help to reduce inequalities in mortality levels across Europe in the long run.
Implications
Smoking contributes substantially to country differences in life expectancy at birth (e0) in Europe, particularly among men, for whom the contribution was highest around 1990 (47%) and declined to 35% in 2014. In line with the anticipated progression of the smoking epidemic, the differences between European countries in e0 due to smoking are expected to further decline among men, but to increase among women. The role of smoking in mortality convergence since 2005 illustrates that smoking policies can help to reduce inequalities in life expectancy levels across Europe, particularly when they target smoking in countries with low e0.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNicotine & Tobacco Research
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • smoking
  • life expectancy
  • mortality

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