BACKGROUND: The relationship between family background and mortality of offspring was studied by using a prospectively collected, general population, birth cohort database (n = 11,017), that is the Northern Finland 1966 birth cohort which is linked with the national death register. METHODS: A logistic regression analysis was performed in order to examine the association between family background and death of offspring (between ages 16 and 28 years). RESULTS: It was revealed that 117 subjects (90 males and 27 females) from the original birth cohort had died. The majority of the deaths were due to unnatural causes in both sexes (79%). After adjusting for confounders (psychiatric diagnosis and parental social class), the results indicated that the general mortality risk for males with a single-parent family background was significantly increased compared with males from a two-parent family background (odds ratio 1.8 and 95% confidence interval: 1.1-2.9). The risk of committing suicide was significantly increased among young adult males with a single-parent family background (OR 2.5 and 95% CI: 1.1-5.8). CONCLUSION: Our finding calls for health care professionals to provide more preventative mental health support for children and adolescents living in broken homes.