The socioeconomic distribution of non-communicable diseases in Europe: findings from the European Social Survey (2014) special module on the social determinants of health
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEuropean Journal of Public Health. 2017, 27 22-26. 10.1093/eurpub/ckw222
Background: A range of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has been found to follow a social pattern whereby socioeconomic status predicts either a higher or lower risk of disease. Comprehensive evidence on the socioeconomic distribution of NCDs across Europe, however, has been limited. Methods: Using cross-sectional 2014 European Social Survey data from 20 countries, this paper examines socioeconomic inequalities in 14 self-reported NCDs separately for women and men: heart/circulatory problems, high blood pressure, back pain, arm/hand pain, foot/leg pain, allergies, breathing problems, stomach/digestion problems, skin conditions, diabetes, severe headaches, cancer, obesity and depression. Using education to measure socioeconomic status, age-controlled adjusted risk ratios were calculated and separately compared a lower and medium education group with a high education group. Results: At the pooled European level, a social gradient in health was observed for 10 NCDs: depression, diabetes, obesity, heart/circulation problems, hand/arm pain, high blood pressure, breathing problems, severe headaches, foot/leg pain and cancer. An inverse social gradient was observed for allergies. Social gradients were observed among both genders, but a greater number of inequalities were observed among women. Country-specific analyses show that inequalities in NCDs are present everywhere across Europe and that inequalities exist to different extents for each of the conditions. Conclusion: This study provides the most up-to-date overview of socioeconomic inequalities for a large number of NCDs across 20 European countries for both women and men. Future investigations should further consider the diseases, and their associated determinants, for which socioeconomic differences are the greatest.