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Absolute and Relative Socioeconomic Health Inequalities across Age Groups

background

The magnitude of socioeconomic health inequalities differs across age groups. It is less clear whether socioeconomic health inequalities differ across age groups by other factors that are known to affect the relation between socioeconomic position and health, like the indicator of socioeconomic position, the health outcome, gender, and as to whether socioeconomic health inequalities are measured in absolute or in relative terms. The aim is to investigate whether absolute and relative socioeconomic health inequalities differ across age groups by indicator of socioeconomic position, health outcome and gender.

Methods

The study sample was derived from the baseline measurement of the LifeLines Cohort Study and consisted of 95,432 participants. Socioeconomic position was measured as educational level and household income. Physical and mental health were measured with the RAND-36. Age concerned eleven 5-years age groups. Absolute inequalities were examined by comparing means. Relative inequalities were examined by comparing Gini-coefficients. Analyses were performed for both health outcomes by both educational level and household income. Analyses were performed for all age groups, and stratified by gender.

Results

Absolute and relative socioeconomic health inequalities differed across age groups by indicator of socioeconomic position, health outcome, and gender. Absolute inequalities were most pronounced for mental health by household income. They were larger in younger than older age groups. Relative inequalities were most pronounced for physical health by educational level. Gini-coefficients were largest in young age groups and smallest in older age groups.

Conclusions

Absolute and relative socioeconomic health inequalities differed cross-sectionally across age groups by indicator of socioeconomic position, health outcome and gender. Researchers should critically consider the implications of choosing a specific age group, in addition to the indicator of socioeconomic position and health outcome, as findings on socioeconomic health inequalities may differ between them.

year of publication

2015

journal

  • PLoS One.

author(s)

  • van Zon, SK
  • B├╝ltmann, U
  • Mendes de Leon, CF
  • Reijneveld, SA.

full publication

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