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Where wealth matters more for health: The wealth–health gradient in 16 countries

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  • Semyonov, Moshe
  • Lewin-Epstein, Noah
  • Maskileyson, Dina
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    Abstract

    Researchers have long demonstrated that persons of high economic status are likely to be healthier than persons of low socioeconomic standing. Cross-national studies have also demonstrated that health of the population tends to increase with country's level of economic development and to decline with level of economic inequality. The present research utilizes data for 16 national samples (of populations fifty years of age and over) to examine whether the relationship between wealth and health at the individual-level is systematically associated with country's level of economic development and country's level of income inequality. The analysis reveals that in all countries rich persons tend to be healthier than poor persons. Furthermore, in all countries the positive association between wealth and health holds even after controlling for socio-demographic attributes and household income. Hierarchical regression analysis leads to two major conclusions: first, country's economic resources increase average health of the population but do not weaken the tie between wealth and health; second, a more equal distribution of economic resources (greater egalitarianism) does not raise health levels of the population but weakens the tie between wealth and health. The latter findings can be mostly attributed to the uniqueness of the US case. The findings and their significance are discussed in light of previous research and theory.

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    Bibliographic Info

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

    Volume (Year): 81 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 10-17

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:81:y:2013:i:c:p:10-17

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    Related research

    Keywords: Health gradient; Physical health; Cross-national comparison; Health inequality; Health development; Multilevel analysis;

    References

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    1. Babones, Salvatore J., 2008. "Income inequality and population health: Correlation and causality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(7), pages 1614-1626, April.
    2. James P. Smith, 2003. "Consequences and predictors of new health events," IFS Working Papers W03/22, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    3. Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Vincent Hildebrand, 2003. "The Wealth and Asset Holdings of U.S.-Born and Foreign-Born Households: Evidence from SIPP Data," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 89, McMaster University.
    4. Michael Hurd & Arie Kapteyn, 2003. "Health, Wealth, and the Role of Institutions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
    5. Laaksonen, Mikko & Tarkiainen, Lasse & Martikainen, Pekka, 2009. "Housing wealth and mortality: A register linkage study of the Finnish population," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 754-760, September.
    6. Sundquist, Jan & Johansson, Sven-Erik, 1997. "Indicators of socio-economic position and their relation to mortality in Sweden," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(12), pages 1757-1766, December.
    7. Peter Adams & Michael D. Hurd & Daniel L. McFadden & Angela Merrill & Tiago Ribeiro, 2004. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise? Tests for Direct Causal Paths between Health and Socioeconomic Status," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 415-526 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. John Wildman, 2001. "The impact of income inequality on individual and societal health: absolute income, relative income and statistical artefacts," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(4), pages 357-361.
    9. Huisman, Martijn & Kunst, Anton E. & Mackenbach, Johan P., 2003. "Socioeconomic inequalities in morbidity among the elderly; a European overview," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(5), pages 861-873, September.
    10. Wildman, John, 2003. "Modelling health, income and income inequality: the impact of income inequality on health and health inequality," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 521-538, July.
    11. van Doorslaer, Eddy & Wagstaff, Adam & Bleichrodt, Han & Calonge, Samuel & Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Gerfin, Michael & Geurts, Jose & Gross, Lorna & Hakkinen, Unto & Leu, Robert E., 1997. "Income-related inequalities in health: some international comparisons," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 93-112, February.
    12. repec:nbr:nberwo:13317 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Subramanian, S. V. & Kawachi, Ichiro & Kennedy, Bruce P., 2001. "Does the state you live in make a difference? Multilevel analysis of self-rated health in the US," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 9-19, July.
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