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BACKGROUND: Prospective studies have suggested a negative impact of area deprivation on overall mortality, but its effect on cause-specific mortality and the mechanisms that account for this association remain unclear. We investigate the association of area deprivation, using Index of Multiple deprivation (IMD), with overall and cause-specific mortality, contextualising findings within a systematic review. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We used data from 4,286 women from the British Women's Heart Health Study (BWHHS) recruited at 1999-2001 to examine the association of IMD with overall and cause-specific mortality using Cox regression models. One standard deviation (SD) increase in the IMD score had a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.21 (95% CI: 1.13-1.30) for overall mortality after adjustment for age and lifecourse individual deprivation, which was attenuated to 1.15 (95% CI: 1.04-1.26) after further inclusion of mediators (health behaviours, biological factors and use of statins and blood pressure-lowering medications). A more pronounced association was observed for respiratory disease and vascular deaths. The meta-analysis, based on 20 published studies plus the BWHHS (n=21), yielded a summary relative risk (RR) of 1.15 (95% CI: 1.11-1.19) for area deprivation (top [least deprived; reference] vs. bottom tertile) with overall mortality in an age and sex adjusted model, which reduced to 1.06 (95% CI: 1.04-1.08) in a fully adjusted model. CONCLUSIONS: Health behaviours mediate the association between area deprivation and cause-specific mortality. Efforts to modify health behaviours may be more successful if they are combined with measures that tackle area deprivation.

Original publication




Journal article


Plos one

Publication Date





Aged, Cause of Death, Female, Humans, Mortality, Prospective Studies, United Kingdom, Women's Health