Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, and Institute of Public Health and Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen, Department of Biostatistics, Copenhagen, Denmark. LLP@ncrr.dk
Adoption studies have been used to disentangle the influence of genes from shared familial environment on various traits and disease risks. However, both the factors leading to adoption and living as an adoptee may bias the studies with regard to the relative influence of genes and environment compared to the general population. The aim was to investigate whether the cohort of domestic adoptees used for these studies in Denmark is similar to the general population with respect to all-cause mortality and cause-specific mortality rates.
13,111 adoptees born in Denmark in 1917, or later, and adopted in 1924 to 1947 were compared to all Danes from the same birth cohorts using standardized mortality ratios (SMR). The 12,729 adoptees alive in 1970 were similarly compared to all Danes using SMR as well as cause-specific SMR.
The excess in all-cause mortality before age 65 years in adoptees was estimated to be 1.30 (95% CI 1.26-1.35). Significant excess mortality before age 65 years was also observed for infections, vascular deaths, cancer, alcohol-related deaths and suicide. Analyses including deaths after age 65 generally showed slightly less excess in mortality, but the excess was significant for all-cause mortality, cancer, alcohol-related deaths and suicides.
Adoptees have an increased all-cause mortality compared to the general population. All major specific causes of death contributed, and the highest excess is seen for alcohol-related deaths.
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