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Comparison or consumption? Distinguishing between different effects of income on health in Nordic welfare states

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  • Yngwe, Monica Åberg
  • Fritzell, Johan
  • Burström, Bo
  • Lundberg, Olle

Abstract

In the relation between income and health it has been suggested that individual level mechanisms are related either to absolute or to relative income. Both absolute income level and the individual's own income in relation to that of others are likely to affect health, but to distinguish between these effects in analyses has been difficult. The aim of this study is to distinguish between the effect on health of one's own position in the income distribution and the effect on health of the individual's ability to consume. Combining data from Sweden, Finland and Norway provides a setting where individuals with the same absolute income level may occupy different positions within their national income distribution. The data come from Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian surveys of living conditions from the mid 1990s. Both the position in the income distribution and the ability to consume is measured by household disposable equivalent income. In order to eliminate differences in price levels, household income is adjusted for purchasing power parities. The outcome measure used is limiting long-standing illness. There was a clear income gradient in health over the individual's relative position in their national income distribution. Stratifying for groups of household income adjusted for purchasing power parities, we still find a significant effect of the individual's relative position. In Nordic welfare states the relative position in the income distribution is related to limiting long-standing illness independently of the ability to consume among individuals with high ability to consume.

Suggested Citation

  • Yngwe, Monica Åberg & Fritzell, Johan & Burström, Bo & Lundberg, Olle, 2005. "Comparison or consumption? Distinguishing between different effects of income on health in Nordic welfare states," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 627-635, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:3:p:627-635
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
    2. Lahelma, Eero & Kivelä, Katariina & Roos, Eva & Tuominen, Terhi & Dahl, Espen & Diderichsen, Finn & Elstad, Jon Ivar & Lissau, Inge & Lundberg, Olle & Rahkonen, Ossi & Rasmussen, Niels Kristian & Yngw, 2002. "Analysing changes of health inequalities in the Nordic welfare states," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 609-625, August.
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    4. Åberg Yngwe, Monica & Fritzell, Johan & Lundberg, Olle & Diderichsen, Finn & Burström, Bo, 2003. "Exploring relative deprivation: Is social comparison a mechanism in the relation between income and health?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(8), pages 1463-1473, October.
    5. Ulf-G. Gerdtham & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Absolute Income, Relative Income, Income Inequality, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    6. Christine Eibner & William N. Evans, 2005. "Relative Deprivation, Poor Health Habits, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
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    8. repec:pri:cheawb:eibner_evans.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Celeste, Roger Keller & Nadanovsky, Paulo & Ponce de Leon, Antonio & Fritzell, Johan, 2009. "The individual and contextual pathways between oral health and income inequality in Brazilian adolescents and adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(10), pages 1468-1475, November.
    2. Chen, Zhuo & Meltzer, David, 2008. "Beefing up with the Chans: Evidence for the effects of relative income and income inequality on health from the China Health and Nutrition Survey," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(11), pages 2206-2217, June.
    3. Adjaye-Gbewonyo, Kafui & Kawachi, Ichiro, 2012. "Use of the Yitzhaki Index as a test of relative deprivation for health outcomes: A review of recent literature," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 129-137.
    4. Aittomäki, Akseli & Martikainen, Pekka & Laaksonen, Mikko & Lahelma, Eero & Rahkonen, Ossi, 2010. "The associations of household wealth and income with self-rated health - A study on economic advantage in middle-aged Finnish men and women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(5), pages 1018-1026, September.
    5. Hounkpatin, Hilda Osafo & Wood, Alex M. & Dunn, Graham, 2016. "Does income relate to health due to psychosocial or material factors? Consistent support for the psychosocial hypothesis requires operationalization with income rank not the Yitzhaki Index," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 76-84.

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