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Economy, community and mortality in British Columbia, Canada

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  • Veenstra, Gerry
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    Stimulated by the growing body of literature relating economic inequalities to inequalities in health, this article explores relationships between various economic attributes of communities and mortality rates among 24 coastal communities in British Columbia, Canada. Average household income, a measure of community wealth, was negatively related and the incidence of low incomes, a measure of poverty, was positively related to age-standardized mortality. Both were more strongly related to female than male mortality. Mean and median household income, the incidence of low incomes and a lack of disposable income, and the proportion of total income dollars derived from government sources were significantly related to mortality rates for younger and middle-aged men but not for elderly men. Mortality rates for younger and middle-aged women were not explicated by these economic attributes of communities: among elderly women only, mortality rates were higher in communities with a lower average household income and in those with a higher incidence of low incomes. Finally, a higher concentration in white-collar industries was related to higher mortality rates for females, even after controlling for other economic attributes of communities. These results do not obviously support a psychosocial argument for an individual-level relationship between income and health that assumes residents perceive their status primarily in relation to other members of the same community, but do provide moderate support for the materialist argument and moderate support for the psychosocial argument that assumes community residents perceive their status in relation to an encompassing reference group. Other viable interpretations of these relationships pertain to ecological characteristics of communities that are related to both economic well-being and population health status; in this instance, concentration in specific economic industries may help to understand the ecological relationships presented here.

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

    Volume (Year): 56 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 8 (April)
    Pages: 1807-1816

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:8:p:1807-1816
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