OBJECTIVE: The emphasis of this study is on the relative mortality of 45-74-year-old men and women in Denmark in 1943-92, following economic and political changes that have affected the social meaning of gender over the last 50 years, and which have diminished former sex differences in health behaviour. METHODS: Sex ratios of total mortality and mortality from major non-sex-specific causes of death were calculated on computerized mortality data from the Danish National Cause of Death Register that covers all deaths in Denmark since 1943. RESULTS: In the early 1940s the sex ratio of all-cause mortality was low, 1.0-1.1, it increased to a peak level in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but has since decreased due to an increase in female mortality and a more favourable trend in male mortality. CONCLUSION: Gender equality, employment, and economic autonomy may have beneficial health effects on both men and women, but the effects are inconsistent. The trend in smoking is the major explanatory factor for the more recent trends in gender differentials in mortality in Denmark.