Smoking accounts for up to 60 percent of gender gap in deaths across Europe

Jan 17, 2011

Smoking accounts for up to 60% of the gender gap in death rates across Europe, and kills twice as many men as alcohol, reveals research published online in Tobacco Control.

The reasons why women have been outliving in developed European countries since the mid to late 18th century, in some cases, have been hotly contested.

The gender gap in has sometimes been put down to simple biology, or the fact that women seek out health care more readily than men. But the magnitude and variability of the trends suggests a rather more complex picture, say the authors, who set out to explore this discrepancy in more detail.

They used World Health Organisation figures on death rates among men and women from all causes as well as those attributable to and drinking in 30 European countries for the years closest to 2005.

Smoking related deaths included respiratory tract cancers, , stroke and (COPD). Those related to included cancers of the throat and gullet and chronic liver disease as well as alcoholic psychosis and violence.

The 30 countries included Iceland, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, and several in Western and Eastern Europe, excluding the Russian Federation, and Scandinavia.

The proportion of the discrepancy in death rates for men and women attributable to smoking and alcohol was then calculated for all 30 countries by dividing the gender gap for each cause by the gender gap for all causes.

Deaths from all causes were higher for men than for women, the figures showed, but the excess in male deaths varied considerably across the countries studied, ranging from 188 per 100,000 of the population a year in Iceland to 942 per 100,000 in Ukraine.

Most countries with a gender gap of more than 400 per 100,000 were in Eastern Europe, but elsewhere Belgium, Spain, France, Finland and Portugal had the widest gaps.

There was an eightfold difference between the country with the lowest male death rate attributable to alcohol - Iceland at 29 per 100,000 - and that with the highest - Lithuania at 253 per 100,000.

Deaths related to alcohol were particularly high among men in Eastern European countries, but they were also much higher for women there. Overall, the proportion of deaths attributable to alcohol ranged from 20% to 30%.

But despite large gender differences in alcohol consumption across Europe and the huge variation in alcohol related deaths, these were significantly lower than deaths caused by smoking.

There was a fivefold difference between countries with the lowest male death rates (Iceland at 97 per 100,000) attributable to smoking and those with the highest (Ukraine at 495 per 100,000).

But smoking was behind 40% to 60% of the gender gap in all countries, except Denmark, Portugal and France, where it was lower, and Malta where it was much higher (74%).

"Profound changes in the population level of smoking and in the magnitude of the in smoking should contribute to smaller gender differences in mortality in the coming decades," say the authors.

"However, the extent to which this is realised will depend on the ways in which other health risk behaviours are patterned by gender," they add, pointing to the continuing uptake of smoking among young people and increases in harmful drinking.

Explore further: US judge overturns state's abortion law (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gender divide in alcohol-related deaths persists

Feb 23, 2009

( -- A study by the University of Glasgow and the Medical Research Council (MRC) has found that more than twice as many men die every year in Scotland from alcohol misuse than women.

More Men Die from COPD Compared to Women

Jan 05, 2009

( -- Men across the Asia-Pacific region have consistently higher mortality and hospitalization rates for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than corresponding rates for women in the region.

Recommended for you

Smoking's toll on mentally ill analyzed

6 hours ago

Those in the United States with a mental illness diagnosis are much more likely to smoke cigarettes and smoke more heavily, and are less likely to quit smoking than those without mental illness, regardless ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 18, 2011

When you base your study on made up numbers, any conclusions you draw are also meaningless.
not rated yet Jan 18, 2011
What, Europeans still smoke cigarettes? I thought they were enlightened?

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Spate of Mideast virus infections raises concerns

A recent spate of infections from a frequently deadly Middle East virus is raising new worries about efforts to contain the illness, with infectious disease experts urging greater vigilance in combatting ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...