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Differences between women’s and men’s socioeconomic inequalities in health: longitudinal analysis of the Canadian population, 1994–2003

Abstract

Background: Socioeconomic inequalities in health are ubiquitous in developed countries; however, whether these inequalities differ between women and men over time is less clear.

Objective: To estimate the potentially different health effects of changes in socioeconomic position (SEP) on changes in health for working-age women and men over a 10-year period. Three main questions were addressed: (1) are there health differences between women and men over time, (2) do changes in SEP lead to health inequalities and (3) do changes in SEP impact health differently for women and men?

Methods: Generalised estimating equations models were used to analyse cycles 1–5 of the Canadian National Population Health Survey for four measures of health, number of chronic conditions, self-rated health, functional health and mental distress, and three measures of SEP, income, education and employment status.

Results: Health inequalities by sex/gender and by changes in SEP were present for all four outcomes in age-adjusted models; however, after controlling for time-dependent social structure, behaviour, and psychosocial factors the relationships persisted only for chronic conditions and psychological distress. There was no evidence that these effects differed, over time, between women and men.

Conclusions: Men and women in this nationally representative sample of Canadians do not differentially embody changes in SEP, although both sex/gender and changes in SEP independently impact health.

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