The Critical Dimension of Ethnicity in Liver Cirrhosis Mortality Statistics


  • Analyses reported were conducted under Contract No. N0AA82014 while the first author was with CSR, Incorporated, Washington, DC.

Frederick S. Stinson, PhD, Division of Biometry and Epidemiology, NIAAA, NIH, 6000 Executive Blvd., Ste. 514, Bethesda, MD 20892-7003; Fax: 301-443-8614; E-mail:


Background: In 1997, liver cirrhosis was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Beginning in the 1950s, liver cirrhosis mortality rates have been consistently higher for black than for white men and women. There has been a gradual adoption of the recommendation that all death certificates include information on the Hispanic origin of decedents, with universal adoption in the 1997 data year. It is the purpose of this study to examine the extent to which relative risks for cirrhosis mortality might shift for different demographic groups when Hispanic origin is considered along with the race and sex of the decedent.

Methods: Age-adjusted death rates were calculated for liver cirrhosis by using public-use data files produced by the National Center for Health Statistics. Trends in cirrhosis mortality rates from 1991 through 1997 are shown for white Hispanic, white non-Hispanic, black Hispanic, and black non-Hispanic men and women.

Results: In 1997, white Hispanic men show the highest cirrhosis mortality rates over the period examined, followed by black non-Hispanic and white non-Hispanic men, white Hispanic women, and black non-Hispanic and white non-Hispanic women. Among Hispanic decedents, the largest group was of Mexican ancestry, with large numbers being born outside the United States and having low education levels.

Conclusions: The findings of higher risk for cirrhosis mortality among white men and women of Hispanic origin serve to focus new attention on these demographic groups. Collateral analyses of other causes of death do not support alternate explanations of these findings as artifacts of demographic misclassification. Future studies of amounts and patterns of alcohol consumption should include Hispanic origin among demographic factors examined.