Socioeconomic inequalities in health among Swedish adolescents - adding the subjective perspective

Mikael Ahlborg, Petra Svedberg, Maria Nyholm, Antony Morgan, Jens M. Nygren

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Abstract

Background
Socioeconomic inequalities in adolescent health predict future inequalities in adult health. Subjective measures of socioeconomic status (SES) may contribute with an increased understanding of these inequalities. The aim of this study was to investigate socioeconomic health inequalities using both a subjective and an objective measure of SES among Swedish adolescents.

Method
Cross-sectional HBSC-data from 2002 to 2014 was used with a total sample of 23,088 adolescents aged 11–15 years. Three measures of self-rated health (dependent variables) were assessed: multiple health complaints, life satisfaction and health perception. SES was measured objectively by the Family Affluence Scale (FAS) and subjectively by “perceived family wealth” (independent variables). The trend for health inequalities was investigated descriptively with independent t-tests and the relationship between independent and dependent variables was investigated with multiple logistic regression analysis. Gender, age and survey year was considered as possible confounders.

Results
Subjective SES was more strongly related to health outcomes than the objective measure (FAS). Also, the relation between FAS and health was weakened and even reversed (for multiple health complaints) when subjective SES was tested simultaneously in regression models (FAS OR: 1.03, CI: 1.00;1.06 and subjective SES OR: 0.66, CI: 0.63;0.68).

Conclusions
The level of socioeconomic inequalities in adolescent health varied depending on which measure that was used to define SES. When focusing on adolescents, the subjective appraisals of SES is important to consider because they seem to provide a stronger tool for identifying inequalities in health for this group. This finding is important for policy makers to consider given the persistence of health inequalities in Sweden and other high-income countries.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2017

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Keywords

  • socioeconomic status
  • Sweden
  • adolescents
  • health

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