Study objective: To examine socioeconomic gradients in mortality in adult women and their husbands in Bangladesh, paying particular attention to the independent effects of the educational status of each spouse.
Design: Historical cohort study.
Setting: Matlab, a rural area 60 km south east of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
Participants: 14 803 married women aged 45 or over and their husbands who were resident in the Matlab Demographic Surveillance area between 30 June 1982 and 31 December 1998.
Main results: Mortality was lower in women with formal or Koranic education compared with those with none (adjusted rate ratio for formal education = 0.68, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.86; adjusted rate ratio for Koranic schooling = 0.82, 95% CI 0.66 to 1.00). After adjusting for her own education, the husband’s level of education or occupation did not have an independent effect on a woman’s survival. Men who had attended formal education had lower mortality than those without any education (adjusted rate ratio = 0.84, 95% CI 0.75 to 0.93), but men whose wives had been educated had an additional survival advantage independent of their own education and occupation (adjusted rate ratio = 0.76, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.87). Mortality in both sexes was also significantly associated with marital status and the percentage of surviving children, and in men was associated with the man’s occupation, religion, area of residence.
Conclusions: The data suggest that socioeconomic status has a strong influence on mortality in adults in Bangladesh. They also illustrate how important the continued promotion of education, particularly for women, may be for the survival of both women and men in rural Bangladesh.
- ICDDR, B, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh: Centre for Health and Population Research
- CHRW, community health research worker
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Funding: LSH was funded by a studentship from the Medical Research Council, UK during this work, and is currently funded by the Wellcome Trust.