Numerous articles and studies have pointed at the link between low socioeconomic status and poor health outcomes among children and working-age adults, but relatively few have carried this through to old age.  One exception is a recent International Journey For Equity In Health articleDifferent Indicators of Socioeconomic Status and Their Relative Importance as Determinants of Health in Old Age.  Based on multi-decade longitudinal studies of people in Sweden, it puts together a compelling case for how lowered socioeconomic status creates healthcare barriers at every stage of a person's life.

What factors most directly correlate to poor health outcomes in old age?  The study identifies several.

Links Between Low SES And Poor Health in Old Age

The study looked at three primary factors: mobility issues, reduced activities of daily living (ADL) such as losing the ability to bathe themselves unassisted, and psychological distress due to disease or health issues.

I. Income

Income was by far the most critical factor in late-age health, in these studies.  The lower the person's income throughout their life, the more likely they were to have issues in all three areas.  Likewise, high-income people were at the lowest risk of late-age health problems.

This was the only factor that correlated strongly to all three negative health factors which were studied.  Simply put, low-income adults are at a much higher risk of late-late health problems and psychological issues.

II. Education

Low education is often associated with poor health outcomes later in life, and this study further confirms that for the most part.  Lower-educated people were at significantly higher risk of both mobility issues and psychological distress.  However, it did not seem to have a significant impact on reduced ADL.

Unsurprisingly, those with high levels of education were at the lowest risk of all three problems.

III.  Occupational Complexity

Of the life factors analyzed, occupational complexity had the lowest impact - but it was still significant.  Those with high-complexity occupations had reduced risk of mobility problems and psychological issues later in life.  ADL reductions were not strongly associated in this measurement, however, and the overall impact was less than the impact of income or educational level.

Socially Determined Wants to Create Better Outcomes

Socially Determined was founded to help government agencies and healthcare providers bring better outcomes to a wider range of socioeconomic classes.  Our analytical models help predict and avoid negative outcomes while encouraging better access for more people.  Contact us to learn more.


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