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Social class and self-rated health: can the gradient be explained by differences in life style or work environment?


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  • Borg, Vilhelm
  • Kristensen, Tage S.
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    The purpose of the present paper is to describe differences in work environment and life style factors between social classes in Denmark and to investigate to what extent these factors can explain social class differences with regard to changes in self-rated health (SRH) over a 5 year period. We used data from a prospective study of a random sample of 5001 Danish employees, 18-59 years of age, interviewed at baseline in 1990 and again in 1995. At baseline we found higher prevalence in the lower classes of repetitive work, low skill discretion, low influence at work, high job insecurity, and ergonomic, physical, chemical, and climatic exposures. High psychological demands and conflicts at work were more prevalent in the higher classes. With regard to life style factors, we found more obese people and more smokers among the lower classes. The proportion with poor SRH increased with decreasing social class at baseline. The follow-up analyses showed a clear association between social class and worsening of SRH: The lower the social class, the higher the proportion with deterioration of SRH. There was no social gradient with regard to improved SRH over time. Approximately two thirds of the social gradient with regard to worsening of SRH could be explained by the work environment and life style factors. The largest contribution came from the work environment factors.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 51 (2000)
    Issue (Month): 7 (October)
    Pages: 1019-1030

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:51:y:2000:i:7:p:1019-1030

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    Keywords: Self-rated health Social class Work environment Life style Prospective study;


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    Cited by:
    1. S. Balia & AM. Jones, 2004. "Mortality, Lifestyle and Socio-Economic Status," Working Paper CRENoS 200416, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    2. V. Albouy & L. Lequien, 2007. "Education and health," Documents de Travail de la DESE - Working Papers of the DESE g2007-02, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, DESE.
    3. Heiss, Florian & Börsch-Supan, Axel & Hurd, Michael & Wise, David, 2006. "Pathways to Disability: Predicting Health Trajectories," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 07-30, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim & Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    4. Meyer S.C. & Künn-Nelen A.C., 2014. "Do occupational demands explain the educational gradient in health?," Research Memorandum 016, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    5. Elena Cottini & Paolo Ghinetti, 2012. "Working Conditions, Lifestyles and Health," Economics Working Papers 2012-28, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
    6. Paul Contoyannis & Andrea M Jones, . "Socioeconomic Status, Health and Lifestyle," Discussion Papers 01/19, Department of Economics, University of York.
    7. Qiu, Hanyao & Bures, Regina & Shehan, Constance L., 2012. "The inconsistent mediating effects of psychosocial work characteristics on the education–health relationship," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1539-1546.
    8. Deborah Graefe & Gordon Jong & Dee May, 2006. "Work disability and migration in the early years of welfare reform," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 25(4), pages 353-368, August.
    9. Elena Pirani & Silvana Salvini, 2012. "Socioeconomic Inequalities and Self-Rated Health: A Multilevel Study of Italian Elderly," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 97-117, February.
    10. Schafer, Markus H. & Ferraro, Kenneth F., 2011. "Distal and variably proximal causes: Education, obesity, and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(9), pages 1340-1348.
    11. Luis Ayala & José M. Labeaga & Carolina Navarro, . "housing deprivation and health status: evidence from Spain?," Working Papers 2005-02, FEDEA.


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