Potential Years of Life Lost Due to Premature Mortality Among Treatment-Seeking Illicit Drug Users in Finland

Ifeoma N. Onyeka*, Caryl Beynon, Ilkka Vohlonen, Jari Tiihonen, Jaana Föhr, Kimmo Ronkainen, Jussi Kauhanen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Premature death is a serious public health concern. The primary objective of this study was to examine premature deaths in terms of potential years of life lost (PYLL) in a cohort of 4817 treatment-seeking illicit drug users. Clients’ data were linked to the Finnish national cause-of-death register and the follow-up period ranged from 31 January 1997 to 31 December 2010. PYLL before 70 years was calculated for all deaths and cause-specific deaths by gender. We observed 496 deaths (417 males and 79 females) at the end of 2010. The mean age at death was 33.8 years, 34.3 years for males (range 18–68) and 31.4 years for females (range 16–53). Overall, 17,951 life years were lost; 14,898 among males and 3053 among females. The overall PYLL rate for males was more than twice that of females (513.0/1000 vs. 243.7/1000 person-years) but the mean PYLL was higher in females than males (38.6 vs. 35.7 years). Of the total PYLL, 34.8 % was due to accidental overdose, and 24.0 % to suicide. In both genders, accidental overdose and suicide were the two top-ranking causes of PYLL. Premature deaths among drug users are a potential loss to the society. Our findings suggest that measures targeting accidental overdose and suicide are top priorities for reducing preventable loss of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1106
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Academy of Finland (Grant Number 118584), and the Finnish Cultural Foundation (Central Fund) provided funding support for this study. We thank Veli Koistinen for his invaluable comments at the beginning of this study. We also thank the staff of Helsinki Deaconess Institute for their collaboration.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Mortality
  • Potential years of life lost (PYLL)
  • Premature deaths
  • Substance abuse
  • Treatment-seeking


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