Background Monitoring socioeconomic inequalities in population health is important in order to reduce them. We aim to determine if educational inequalities in Global Activity Limitation Indicator (GALI) disability have changed between 2002 and 2017 in Europe (26 countries).
Methods We used logistic regression to quantify the annual change in disability prevalence by education, as well as the annual change in prevalence difference and ratio, both for the pooled sample and each country, as reported in the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) and the European Social Survey (ESS) for individuals aged 30–79 years.
Results In EU-SILC, disability prevalence tended to decrease among the high educated. As a result, both the prevalence difference and the prevalence ratio between the low and high educated increased over time. There were no discernible trends in the ESS. However, there was substantial heterogeneity between countries in the magnitude and direction of these changes, but without clear geographical patterns and without consistency between surveys.
Conclusions Socioeconomic inequalities in disability appear to have increased over time in Europe between 2002 and 2017 as per EU-SILC, and have persisted as measured by the ESS. Efforts to further harmonise disability instruments in international surveys are important, and so are studies to better understand international differences in disability trends and inequalities.