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Research on social inequalities in health and health behaviour

Social inequalities in health have been documented all over the world. There is strong evidence that indicators of socioeconomic position such as education, income or employment status affect health, leaving those in lower positions at higher risk for morbidity and premature mortality.

To date, major evidence comes from cohort studies of general populations, whereas relatively few investigations analyzed social inequalities in health among persons with a disability.

Given an increasing proportion of disabled persons in rapidly ageing societies, this gap in knowledge needs to be addressed, as detailed information on social determinants of health among different population groups is required to inform targeted developments of social and health policies. The first aim of our research is therefore to overcome this research gap and to investigate social patterns of a broad range of health indicators including physical and mental health, activity and participation as well as measures of quality of life.

Different efforts have been made towards explaining social inequalities in health. One explanation points at the unequal distribution of material and psychosocial resources (e.g. poor housing, adverse working conditions, low social support) that leads to poor health outcomes in those with limited access to those resources. Another approach postulates that social inequalities in health behaviours (e.g. smoking, low physical activity, poor nutrition, high alcohol intake) contribute substantially to the development of health inequalities. As health behaviours are of high importance in persons with a disability as their adverse effects on health might be even larger than in healthy controls, our second aim is to closely look at the social pattern of health behaviours and to analyse the potential mediating role in the interplay between social status and health. 

Tags: Health, Social system, Inequality, Policy

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