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Widespread and widely widening?: Examining absolute socioeconomic health inequalities in northern Sweden across twelve health indicators
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4619-9169
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7234-3510
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5902-3798
2019 (English)In: International Journal for Equity in Health, ISSN 1475-9276, E-ISSN 1475-9276, Vol. 18, article id 197Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Socioeconomic inequalities in health is a widely studied topic. However, epidemiological research tends to focus on one or a few outcomes conditioned on one indicator, overlooking the fact that health inequalities can vary depending on the outcome studied and the indicator used. To bridge this gap, this study aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the patterns of socioeconomic health inequalities in Northern Sweden over time, across a range of health outcomes, using an ‘outcome-wide’ epidemiological approach. Method: Cross-sectional data from three waves of the ‘Health on Equal Terms’ survey, distributed in 2006, 2010 and 2014 were used. Firstly, socioeconomic inequalities by income and education for twelve outcomes (self-rated health, self-rated dental health, overweight, hypertension, diabetes, long-term illness, stress, depression, psychological distress, smoking, risky alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity) were examined by calculating the Slope Index of Inequality. Secondly, time trends for each outcome and socioeconomic indicator were estimated. Results: Income inequalities increased for psychological distress and physical inactivity in men as well as for selfrated health, overweight, hypertension, long-term illness, and smoking among women. Educational inequalities increased for hypertension, long-term illness, and stress (the latter favouring lower education) in women. The only instance of decreasing income inequalities was seen for long-term illness in men, while education inequalities decreased for long-term illness in men and poor self-rated health, poor self-rated dental health, and smoking in women. Conclusion: Patterns of absolute socioeconomic inequalities in health vary by health and socioeconomic indicator, as well as between men and women. Overall, trends appear more stagnant in men while they fluctuate in women. Income inequalities seem to be generally greater than educational inequalities when looking across several different health indicators, a message that can only be derived from this type of outcome-wide study. These disparate findings suggest that generalised and universal statements about the development of health inequalities can be too simplistic and potentially misleading. Nonetheless, despite inequalities being complex, they do exist and tend to increase. Thus, an outcome-wide approach is a valuable method which should be utilised to generate evidence for prioritisations of policy decisions

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BioMed Central, 2019. Vol. 18, article id 197
Keywords [en]
Socioeconomic inequalities in health, Outcome-wide approach, Slope index of inequality, Time trends, Northern Sweden
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-166622DOI: 10.1186/s12939-019-1100-5PubMedID: 31852487OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-166622DiVA, id: diva2:1380515
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016–00236Available from: 2019-12-19 Created: 2019-12-19 Last updated: 2019-12-20Bibliographically approved

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Degerlund Maldi, KinzaSan Sebastian, MiguelGustafsson, Per EJonsson, Frida
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