The aims of this study were to examine socio-demographic differences in alcohol-related mortality in Estonia, and how they changed over time.Methods
Individual death records (age at death 25–64) in Estonia from the late Soviet era (1983–1991) to Estonian re-independence (1992–2005) were analysed using a case-control design. Cases were deaths from alcohol-related causes (7981 deaths). Controls were deaths (13,820) from those neoplasms that are considered not to show variation in death risk according to the socio-demographic variables (that is, excluding cancer of the upper aero-digestive tract, lung, stomach, colon and female breast). Differences in alcohol-related mortality between socio-demographic groups were measured by mortality odds ratio.Results
In the study period as a whole, in both genders, an inverse relationship between the educational level and risk of alcohol-related death was apparent. Non-Estonians were more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than Estonians. Risk of alcohol-related death varied over time, being lowest just before Estonia regained its independence, and highest in the most recent period. In men, the educational gradient in the mortality odds ratio almost disappeared in 1988–1991, but reappeared in the transition period, while the impact of ethnicity remained stable over time. In women, educational contrasts in the risk of death existed throughout all subperiods, and ethnical inequalities widened in the re-independence period.Conclusion
Rapid societal changes had profound effects on alcohol-related mortality. Strategies to prevent alcohol misuse should include all sections in society, paying special attention to less educated and non-Estonians.