Contribution of smoking to excess mortality in Harlem

Mary Northridge, A. Morabia, M. L. Ganz, M. T. Bassett, D. Gemson, H. Andrews, C. McCord

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The New York City neighborhood of Harlem has mortality rates that are among the highest in the United States. In absolute numbers, cardiovascular disease and cancer account for the overwhelming majority of deaths, especially among men, and these deaths occur at relatively young ages. The aim of this research was to examine self-reported smoking habits according to measures of socioeconomic status among Harlem men and women, in order to estimate the contribution of tobacco consumption to Harlem's remarkably high excess mortality. During 1992-1994, in-person interviews were conducted among 695 Harlem adults aged 18-65 years who were randomly selected from dwelling unit enumeration lists. The self-reported prevalence of current smoking was strikingly high among both men (48%) and women (41%), even among highly educated men (38%). The 21% of respondents without working telephones reported an even higher prevalence of current smoking (61%), indicating that national and state-based estimates which rely on telephone surveys may seriously underestimate the prevalence of smoking in poor urban communities. Among persons aged 35-64 years, the smoking attributable fractions for selected causes of death were larger in Harlem than in either New York City as a whole or the entire United States for both men and women. Tobacco consumption is likely to be one of several important mediators of the high numbers of premature deaths in Harlem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-258
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 1998


  • Blacks
  • Educational status
  • Mortality
  • Poverty areas
  • Smoking
  • Social class
  • Urban health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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