Socioeconomic differences in the use of ill-defined causes of death in 16 European countries
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Public Health 2014, 14(1295) 10.1186/1471-2458-14-1295
Background: Cause-of-death data linked to information on socioeconomic position form one of the most important sources of information about health inequalities in many countries. The proportion of deaths from ill-defined conditions is one of the indicators of the quality of cause-of-death data. We investigated educational differences in the use of ill-defined causes of death in official mortality statistics. Methods: Using age-standardized mortality rates from 16 European countries, we calculated the proportion of all deaths in each educational group that were classified as due to “Symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions”. We tested if this proportion differed across educational groups using Chi-square tests. Results: The proportion of ill-defined causes of death was lower than 6.5% among men and 4.5% among women in all European countries, without any clear geographical pattern. This proportion statistically significantly differed by educational groups in several countries with in most cases a higher proportion among less than secondary educated people compared with tertiary educated people. Conclusions: We found evidence for educational differences in the distribution of ill-defined causes of death. However, the differences between educational groups were small suggesting that socioeconomic inequalities in cause-specific mortality in Europe are not likely to be biased.