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Does an increase of low income families affect child health inequalities? A Swedish case study
  1. S Bremberg
  1. Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S Bremberg, National Institute of Public Health, Olof Palmes gata 17, SE-103 52 Stockholm, Sweden; 


Study objective: Reduction of health inequalities is a primary public health target in many countries. A change of proportion of low income families might affect child health inequalities. Yet, the importance of family incomes in high income welfare states is not well established. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of increased percentage of low income families on child health inequalities during an economic recession in Sweden, 1991–1996.

Design: Health inequalities for six health indicators were assessed during the period 1991–1996 and during adjacent periods. Relative inequality indices were estimated according to Pamuk and Mackenback. Appraisal of a child’s socioeconomic situation was based on social data for the child’s residency area.

Setting: The total population of children and adolescents 0–<19 years old living in Stockholm County, Sweden, was studied. Each one year cohort comprised 20 470–25 420 people.

Main outcome measures: Mortality; rate of low birth weight; days of hospital care for infections, asthma/allergic disorders, and unintentional injuries; and rate of abortions.

Main results: Mortality decreased annually by 6.9%. The average relative inequality index for mortality before the recession was 1.40 and was lower during the recession, 1.14. The remaining five health indicators, and the relative inequality index for these indicators, did not differ significantly between the recession years (1991–1996) and adjacent periods.

Conclusions: Relative health inequalities did not change, or decreased, during the recession years. The findings indicate that the connection was weak between child health inequalities and family incomes, within the frame of time and the range of income changes that occurred during the study period.

  • income
  • children
  • mortality

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