Journal Article

Exploring the longevity advantage of doctorates in Finland and Sweden: the role of smoking- and alcohol-related causes of death

Junna, L. M., Tarkiainen, L., Östergren, O., Jasilionis, D., Martikainen, P.
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 1–4 (2020)
Open Access


Aims: Tobacco smoking and alcohol use contribute to differences in life expectancy between individuals with primary, secondary and tertiary education. Less is known about the contribution of these risk factors to differences at higher levels of education. We estimate the contribution of smoking and alcohol use to the life-expectancy differences between the doctorates and the other tertiary-educated groups in Finland and in Sweden. Methods: We used total population data from Finland and Sweden from 2011 to 2015 to calculate period life expectancies at 40 years of age. We present the results by sex and educational attainment, the latter categorised as doctorate or licentiate degrees, or other tertiary. We also present an age and cause of death decomposition to assess the contribution of deaths related to smoking and alcohol. Results: In Finland, deaths related to smoking and alcohol constituted 48.6% of the 2.1-year difference in life expectancy between men with doctorate degrees and the other tertiary-educated men, and 22.9% of the 2.1-year difference between women, respectively. In Sweden, these causes account for 22.2% of the 1.9-year difference among men, and 55.7% of the 1.6-year difference among women, which in the latter case is mainly due to smoking. Conclusions: Individuals with doctorates tend to live longer than other tertiary-educated individuals. This difference can be partly attributed to alcohol consumption and smoking.

Keywords: Finland, Sweden, alcoholism, higher education, inequality, life expectancy, mortality, smoking
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.