High life in the sky? Mortality by floor of residence in Switzerland

Panczak, Radoslaw ; Galobardes, Bruna ; Spoerri, Adrian ; Zwahlen, Marcel ; Egger, Matthias

In: European Journal of Epidemiology, 2013, vol. 28, no. 6, p. 453-462

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    Living in high-rise buildings could influence the health of residents. Previous studies focused on structural features of high-rise buildings or characteristics of their neighbourhoods, ignoring differences within buildings in socio-economic position or health outcomes. We examined mortality by floor of residence in the Swiss National Cohort, a longitudinal study based on the linkage of December 2000 census with mortality and emigration records 2001-2008. Analyses were based on 1.5 million people living in buildings with four or more floors and 142,390 deaths recorded during 11.4 million person-years of follow-up. Cox models were adjusted for age, sex, civil status, nationality, language, religion, education, professional status, type of household and crowding. The rent per m2 increased with higher floors and the number of persons per room decreased. Mortality rates decreased with increasing floors: hazard ratios comparing the ground floor with the eighth floor and above were 1.22 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.15-1.28] for all causes, 1.40 (95% CI 1.11-1.77) for respiratory diseases, 1.35 (95% CI 1.22-1.49) for cardiovascular diseases and 1.22 (95% CI 0.99-1.50) for lung cancer, but 0.41 (95% CI 0.17-0.98) for suicide by jumping from a high place. There was no association with suicide by any means (hazard ratio 0.81; 95% CI 0.57-1.15). We conclude that in Switzerland all-cause and cause-specific mortality varies across floors of residence among people living in high-rise buildings. Gradients in mortality suggest that floor of residence captures residual socioeconomic stratification and is likely to be mediated by behavioural (e.g. physical activity), and environmental exposures, and access to a method of suicide