Aim: To explore the nature of the social class gradient of cirrhosis mortality in England and Wales across the 20th century. Methods: Data on male cirrhosis mortality by social class were obtained from the Registrar General's Decennial Supplements for the years 1921-1991. Data for 1941 were not collected because of the second World War. Results: In 1921, cirrhosis mortality was substantially higher among the professional and managerial classes (I and II) than among the other social classes (III-V). This marked social class difference persisted until 1961 when the differences between the social classes were inconsistent. By 1991, the gradient had reversed and the lower social classes (IV and V) had the higher mortality. The excess mortality was greatest for social class V. The change in the mortality gradient is stark: in 1921social classes I and II had a cirrhosis mortality at least twice that of social classes IV and V, but by 1991 this ratio had reversed. Conclusions: The reversal in the social class gradient of cirrhosis mortality indicates a major change in risk factor distribution across social classes. Differential changes in alcohol consumption are a possible explanation for this change, although the 1991 social class gradient in cirrhosis is inconsistent with alcohol consumption data from national surveys. Further research is required to clarify the explanation for the observed gradient, so that appropriate preventive measures can be put into place.
- ALCOHOL-RELATED MORTALITY