Study objective: To examine the associations of individual and household income with various health behaviours, before and after adjusting for educational attainment and occupational social class.
Design and Setting: Data from 19 982 respondents to nationwide health behaviour surveys from 1993 to 1999 (response rate 70%) were linked with socioeconomic information from population registers.
Measurements: The income measures were total individual income liable to taxation and household’s monthly disposable income. Health behaviours included smoking, alcohol use, leisure time physical activity, use of vegetables, use of saturated fat on bread, and being overweight.
Main results: In men, smoking and infrequent vegetable use were more common among those with lower individual and household income. However, adjusting for education and occupational class removed most of the differences. Use of saturated fat on bread increased with decreasing individual income, before and after the adjustments. In women, smoking, infrequent vegetable use and being overweight were more common among those with lower income, but the differences by both income measures were largely removed by the adjustments. Women with higher income more often also were high alcohol users and had less physical activity, in particular when income was measured by the respondents’ individual income.
Conclusions: Adjusting for education and occupation largely removed income differences in health behaviours, but for some behaviours some independent effect remained. The results suggest that income does not only reflect the available material resources, but works as a general socioeconomic indicator that is associated with health behaviours in much the same way as other socioeconomic indicators.
- social class
- health behaviours
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