To what extent do financial strain and labour force status explain social class inequalities in self-rated health? Analysis of 20 countries in the European Social Survey
14 Oct 2014
Nordic countries do not have the smallest health inequalities despite egalitarian social policies. A possible explanation for this is that drivers of class differences in health such as financial strain and labour force status remain socially patterned in Nordic countries.
Our analyses used data for working age (25–59) men (n = 48,249) and women (n = 52,654) for 20 countries from five rounds (2002–2010) of the European Social Survey. The outcome was self-rated health in 5 categories. Stratified by gender we used fixed effects linear regression models and marginal standardisation to instigate how countries varied in the degree to which class inequalities were attenuated by financial strain and labour force status.
Results and Discussion
Before adjustment, Nordic countries had large inequalities in self-rated health relative to other European countries. For example the regression coefficient for the difference in health between working class and professional men living in Norway was 0.34 (95% CI 0.26 to 0.42), while the comparable figure for Spain was 0.15 (95% CI 0.08 to 0.22). Adjusting for financial strain and labour force status led to attenuation of health inequalities in all countries. However, unlike some countries such as Spain, where after adjustment the regression coefficient for working class men was only 0.02 (95% CI −0.05 to 0.10), health inequalities persisted after adjustment for Nordic countries. For Norway the adjusted coefficient was 0.17 (95% CI 0.10 to 0.25). Results for women and men were similar. However, in comparison to men, class inequalities tended to be stronger for women and more persistent after adjustment.
Adjusting for financial security and labour force status attenuates a high proportion of health inequalities in some counties, particularly Southern European countries, but attenuation in Nordic countries was modest and did not improve their relative position.
Open Access article; Copyright: © 2014 Shaw et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.