Mortality of the Sami in northern Finland 1979-2005

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Soininen, Leena ; Pukkala, Eero (2008)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Circumpolar Health (issn: 1797-237X, eissn: 1239-9736)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ijch.v67i1.18227
  • Subject: Arctic populations; cause of death; cohort study; ethnicity; mortality; record linkage; Sami

OBJECTIVES: To describe the mortality of the Finnish Sami population. Study design. A cohort study. The Sami population living in northern Finland represents a specific genetic background and a way of life that has been different from other Finns. METHODS: A cohort of all 2091 Sami and 4,161 non-Sami people from the 2 northernmost municipalities of Finland on 31 December 1978 was identified from the National Population Register and followed up for their mortality during 1979-2005. RESULTS: Altogether 625 Sami died during 1979-2005, while the expected number based on the average mortality rates in the entire Finnish population was 633. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) of the Sami population was 0.99 (95% confidence interval 0.91-1.06), and for the non-Sami 1.07 (1.00-1.14). The mortality from accidents and violence was elevated both among the Sami, SMR 1.67 (1.32-2.08), and among the non-Sami, 1.28 (1.04-1.53). Snowmobile and water transport accidents were especially common. SMR for disease mortality among the Sami men was 0.88 (0.78-0.98). Half of the decrease was attributable to the low mortality from cancer, SMR 0.69 (0.52-0.90). SMR for circulatory diseases was very similar. The SMRs for dementia and Alzheimer`s disease were elevated among the Sami men. CONCLUSIONS: The Sami men had a lower disease mortality as compared with the Finnish population generally and their non-Sami neighbours, although their life habits would suggest a higher mortality rate. Reasons for their lower mortality may be related to their diet that is rich in reindeer meat and fish, their physically active way of life or their genetic background.Keywords: Arctic populations; cause of death; cohort study; ethnicity; mortality; record linkage; Sami(Int J Circumpolar Health 2008; 67(1):45-57)
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