Changes between pre-crisis and crisis period in socioeconomic inequalities in health and stimulant use in Netherlands

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Background: International research suggests an impact of economic crises on population health, with different effects among different socioeconomic groups. Since the end of 2008 the Netherlands experienced a period of economic crisis. Our study explores how inequalities in perceived general and mental health, and alcohol and tobacco use changed after the recession started. Methods: We used data from the Dutch Health Interview Surveys: 2006–2008 (pre-crisis period) and 2009–2013 (crisis period). Respondents aged 25–64 were divided into socioeconomic groups based on labour status, income level and income change. Inequalities in health and stimulant use among these socioeconomic groups were described by period and changes between the pre-crisis and crisis period were investigated using logistic regression models. Results: Most inequalities did not change, with some exceptions. For perceived general health, inequalities between employed persons and persons not in the labour force were larger in the crisis period (unfavourable trends for those not in the labour force). For smoking, inequalities between unemployed and employed persons were larger in the crisis period (decreasing smoking rates only for those employed), as did inequalities between persons with low and high income levels (decreasing smoking rates for those with higher income levels). Excessive drinking decreased among employed persons and persons with a decrease in income, while it remained stable among persons not in the labour force and among persons with an increase in income. Conclusion: The widening of some socioeconomic inequalities in health and stimulant use might suggest an enhanced vulnerability of lower socioeconomic groups to the post-2008 crisis.

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