Using new facilities for linking large databases, we aimed to evaluate for the first time the magnitude of relative and absolute educational inequalities in mortality by sex and cause of death in the Netherlands.
Descriptive study using routinely collected data.
We analyzed data from Dutch Labour Force Surveys (1998–2002) with mortality follow-up 1998–2007 among people aged 30–79 years. We calculated hazard ratios using Cox proportional hazards model, age-standardized mortality rates and partial life expectancy by education. We compared results for the Netherlands with those for other European countries.
The relative risk of dying was about 2 times higher among primary educated men and women as compared to their tertiary educated counterparts, leading to a gap in partial life expectancy of 3.4 years (men) and 2.4 years (women). Inequalities in mortality are similar to those in other countries in North-Western Europe, but inequalities in lung cancer mortality are substantially larger in the Netherlands, particularly among men.
We conclude that the Netherlands has large inequalities in mortality, especially for smoking-related causes of death. These large inequalities require the urgent attention of policy makers.
Conflict of interest: none declared. Financial support: this study was supported by grants from the European Committee (projectnumber 20081309), ZonMw (projectnumber 121020026) and Netspar (project ‘Causes and consequences of rising life expectancy in the Netherlands’).