Stockholm University
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Life expectancy by religious affiliation in Finland 1972–2020

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posted on 2024-04-26, 13:37 authored by Julia Klein, Martin KolkMartin Kolk, Jan SaarelaJan Saarela

Background: Religion and religiosity are known as important determinants of health and mortality. Previous studies on the interrelation between religion and mortality have relied on survey data or small cohort samples, and they have mainly been carried out in a North American setting.

Objective: We provide a register-based study of life expectancy by religious affiliation for a total national population over the course of five decades.

Methods: We calculate life expectancy by religious affiliation, using register data on the entire population of Finland for the period 1972–2020. Calculations are made separately for native- and foreign-born men and women. We use administrative longitudinal annual data on each person’s religious denomination, as registered by the Finnish government.

Results: Compared to members of the Evangelical-Lutheran state church, Orthodox have up to two years shorter life expectancy, while people with other religions have up to four years longer life expectancy. Non-affiliated persons have had about one year shorter life expectancy than Evangelical-Lutherans, but the difference has decreased over time and they currently lie at a similar level. Similar patterns in life expectancy can be seen for the native and foreign born, but sex differences are more pronounced among the latter.

Conclusions: Religious affiliation as measured by population register data is an important determinant of life expectancy.

Contribution: This is the first longitudinal study of life expectancy by religious affiliation based on population register data for an entire country. We find substantive differences across religious denominations also in a secular context such as Finland.


Åbo Akademi University Foundation’s funding of the DemSwed Internal Centre of Excellence

Svenska Kulturfonden




Original title

Life expectancy by religious affiliation in Finland 1972–2020

Original language

  • English

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