Class-related health inequalities are not larger in the East: a comparison of four European regions using the new European socioeconomic classification

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Abstract

Background:

The article investigates whether people in Eastern Europe have larger health inequalities than their counterparts in three West European regions (North, Central and the South).

Methods:

Data were obtained for 63 754 individuals in 23 countries from the first (2002) and second (2004) waves of the European Social Survey. The health outcomes were self-reported limiting longstanding illness and fair/poor general health. Occupational class was defined according to the European Socioeconomic Classification (ESeC). The magnitude of absolute and relative inequalities according to nine occupational classes for men and women separately were identified, analysed and compared in all four regions of Europe.

Results:

For both sexes and within all European regions, the higher and lower professionals, self-employed and higher service workers reported fewer cases of ill health than other occupational classes. In contrast, lower technical and routine workers reported the poorest health, excluding the relatively small number of farmers. Income and education did not explain more, or less, of the class-related health inequalities in the East compared with the other regions.

Conclusions:

Little evidence was found for the hypothesis that East European countries have larger class-related health inequalities than other European regions. People’s income and educational attainment both contribute to occupational health inequalities in the East as well as in the West.

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