Determinants of inequalities in years with disability: an international-comparative study

  • Wilma Nusselder Wilma Nusselder
  • Bodgan Wojtyniak Bodgan Wojtyniak
  • Enrique Regidor Enrique Regidor
  • Gwenn Menvielle Gwenn Menvielle
  • Henrik Brønnum-Hansen Henrik Brønnum-Hansen
  • Johan Mackenbach Johan Mackenbach
  • Jose R. Rubio-Valverde Jose R. Rubio-Valverde
  • Mall Leinsalu Mall Leinsalu
  • Matthias Bopp Matthias Bopp
  • Patrick Deboosere Patrick Deboosere
  • Pekka Martikainen Pekka Martikainen
  • Ramune Kalediene Ramune Kalediene
Background

Persons with a lower socioeconomic position spend more years with disability, despite their shorter life expectancy, but it is unknown what the important determinants are. This study aimed to quantify the contribution to educational inequalities in years with disability of eight risk factors: father’s manual occupation, low income, few social contacts, smoking, high alcohol consumption, high body-weight, low physical exercise and low fruit and vegetable consumption.


Methods

We collected register-based mortality and survey-based disability and risk factor data from 15 European countries covering the period 2010–14 for most countries. We calculated years with disability between the ages of 35 and 80 by education and gender using the Sullivan method, and determined the hypothetical effect of changing the prevalence of each risk factor to the prevalence observed among high educated (‘upward levelling scenario’), using Population Attributable Fractions.

Results

Years with disability among low educated were higher than among high educated, with a difference of 4.9 years among men and 5.5 years among women for all countries combined. Most risk factors were more prevalent among low educated. We found the largest contributions to inequalities in years with disability for low income (men: 1.0 year; women: 1.4 year), high body-weight (men: 0.6 year; women: 1.2 year) and father’s manual occupation (men: 0.7 year; women: 0.9 year), but contributions differed by country. The contribution of smoking was relatively small.

Conclusions

Disadvantages in material circumstances (low income), circumstances during childhood (father’s manual occupation) and high body-weight contribute to inequalities in years with disability.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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