9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Inequalities and Social Divisions in European Health II Building I, 1E4

Changes in occupational class inequalities in health among ageing employees - The Helsinki Health Study

There are several studies on trends in health inequalities. These show that health inequalities have been persistent or even increased in most of the countries studied. We know less how socioeconomic differences change over the lifecourse among ageing people. The aim of this paper was to examine a) whether socioeconomic inequalities in health change over time among ageing women and men and b) whether there are differences in the changes between those who remained employed and those who retired.

The participants are women and men who were employed by the City of Helsinki in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and were born between 1940 and 1962 (40 to 60 yrs at baseline). The response rate of the baseline survey was 67%. The follow-up survey was made in 2007 to 8794 persons who had responded to the baseline survey (response rate of 83%). Occupational social class was divided into four hierarchical groups: managers and professionals, semi-professionals, routine non-manuals, and manual workers. The health outcome was self-rated health (SRH) as below good (?poor health?).

At baseline 19% of female managers and professionals reported poor health as compared to 32% of female manual workers. Five to seven years later the corresponding figures were 20% and 41%. Occupational class inequalities in SRH among women had markedly increased. In men, SRH deteriorated evenly in all occupational classes. Among those who still were during the follow-up employed, inequalities in SRH increased in both women and men. Among those who had retired after the baseline study, SRH was clearly poorer than among those who remained employed. Among retired women the class inequalities in SRH increased, among men decreased.

Socioeconomic inequalities in health increased among employed women and men as well as among retired women but decreased among retired men. In line with previous cross-sectional studies health inequalities are less robust among retired. The contribution of work- and home-related factors as well as healthy lifestyles to changing health inequalities should be examined.