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      Trends in health inequalities in 27 European countries

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          Abstract

          <p id="d4291728e513">Inequalities in mortality and morbidity among socioeconomic groups are a highly persistent phenomenon despite having been the focus of public health policy in many countries. The United States has recently witnessed a widening of health inequalities due to rising mortality and morbidity among the lowly educated. Our study shows that, despite the financial crisis, most European countries have experienced an improvement in the health of the lowly educated in recent years. In Eastern Europe, this even represents a reversal as compared with previous decades. The 2008 financial crisis has had mixed effects without widening health inequalities. Our results suggest that European countries have been successful in avoiding an aggravation of health inequalities. </p><p class="first" id="d4291728e516">Unfavorable health trends among the lowly educated have recently been reported from the United States. We analyzed health trends by education in European countries, paying particular attention to the possibility of recent trend interruptions, including interruptions related to the impact of the 2008 financial crisis. We collected and harmonized data on mortality from <i>ca</i>. 1980 to <i>ca</i>. 2014 for 17 countries covering 9.8 million deaths and data on self-reported morbidity from <i>ca</i>. 2002 to <i>ca</i>. 2014 for 27 countries covering 350,000 survey respondents. We used interrupted time-series analyses to study changes over time and country-fixed effects analyses to study the impact of crisis-related economic conditions on health outcomes. Recent trends were more favorable than in previous decades, particularly in Eastern Europe, where mortality started to decline among lowly educated men and where the decline in less-than-good self-assessed health accelerated, resulting in some narrowing of health inequalities. In Western Europe, mortality has continued to decline among the lowly and highly educated, and although the decline of less-than-good self-assessed health slowed in countries severely hit by the financial crisis, this affected lowly and highly educated equally. Crisis-related economic conditions were not associated with widening health inequalities. Our results show that the unfavorable trends observed in the United States are not found in Europe. There has also been no discernible short-term impact of the crisis on health inequalities at the population level. Both findings suggest that European countries have been successful in avoiding an aggravation of health inequalities. </p>

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          Is Open Access

          Changes in mortality inequalities over two decades: register based study of European countries

          Objective To determine whether government efforts in reducing inequalities in health in European countries have actually made a difference to mortality inequalities by socioeconomic group. Design Register based study. Data source Mortality data by level of education and occupational class in the period 1990-2010, usually collected in a census linked longitudinal study design. We compared changes in mortality between the lowest and highest socioeconomic groups, and calculated their effect on absolute and relative inequalities in mortality (measured as rate differences and rate ratios, respectively). Setting All European countries for which data on socioeconomic inequalities in mortality were available for the approximate period between years 1990 and 2010. These included Finland, Norway, Sweden, Scotland, England and Wales (data applied to both together), France, Switzerland, Spain (Barcelona), Italy (Turin), Slovenia, and Lithuania. Results Substantial mortality declines occurred in lower socioeconomic groups in most European countries covered by this study. Relative inequalities in mortality widened almost universally, because percentage declines were usually smaller in lower socioeconomic groups. However, as absolute declines were often smaller in higher socioeconomic groups, absolute inequalities narrowed by up to 35%, particularly among men. Narrowing was partly driven by ischaemic heart disease, smoking related causes, and causes amenable to medical intervention. Progress in reducing absolute inequalities was greatest in Spain (Barcelona), Scotland, England and Wales, and Italy (Turin), and absent in Finland and Norway. More detailed studies preferably using individual level data are necessary to identify the causes of these variations. Conclusions Over the past two decades, trends in inequalities in mortality have been more favourable in most European countries than is commonly assumed. Absolute inequalities have decreased in several countries, probably more as a side effect of population wide behavioural changes and improvements in prevention and treatment, than as an effect of policies explicitly aimed at reducing health inequalities.
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            Assessing the validity of the Global Activity Limitation Indicator in fourteen European countries

            Background The Global Activity Limitation Indicator (GALI), the measure underlying the European indicator Healthy Life Years (HLY), is widely used to compare population health across countries. However, the comparability of the item has been questioned. This study aims to further validate the GALI in the adult European population. Methods Data from the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS), covering 14 European countries and 152,787 individuals, were used to explore how the GALI was associated with other measures of disability and whether the GALI was consistent or reflected different disability situations in different countries. Results When considering each country separately or all combined, we found that the GALI was significantly associated with measures of activities of daily living, instrumental activity of daily living, and functional limitations (P < 0.001 in all cases). Associations were largest for activity of daily living and lowest though still high for functional limitations. For each measure, the magnitude of the association was similar across most countries. Overall, however, the GALI differed significantly between countries in terms of how it reflected each of the three disability measures (P < 0.001 in all cases). We suspect cross-country differences in the results may be due to variations in: the implementation of the EHIS, the perception of functioning and limitations, and the understanding of the GALI question. Conclusion The study both confirms the relevance of this indicator to measure general activity limitations in the European population and the need for caution when comparing the level of the GALI from one country to another. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2288-15-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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              Will the recession be bad for our health? It depends.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                June 04 2018
                : 201800028
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1800028115
                6016814
                29866829
                970de6b6-d0b1-4bd6-8ffb-d7835966b585
                © 2018

                Free to read

                http://www.pnas.org/site/misc/userlicense.xhtml

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