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Influence of material and behavioural factors on occupational class differences in health
  1. Mikko Laaksonen1,
  2. Eva Roos1,
  3. Ossi Rahkonen2,
  4. Pekka Martikainen3,
  5. Eero Lahelma1
  1. 1Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Department of Social Policy, University of Helsinki
  3. 3Population Research Unit, Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Laaksonen
 Department of Public Health, PO Box 41, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland;


Objective: To examine material and behavioural factors as explanations for occupational class differences in health, while taking into account the interrelations between these two groups of factors.

Methods: Data from cross sectional surveys among middle aged women and men employed by the City of Helsinki (n = 6062, response rate 68%) were used. The contribution of four material and seven behavioural factors to occupational class differences in self rated health was examined by logistic regression techniques. After examining the contribution of each material and behavioural factor individually these were combined into two groups, whose independent and shared effects on occupational class differences in health were examined.

Results: In women, each material factor reduced the association between occupational class and health, while only financial difficulties and financial satisfaction were statistically significant in men. Smoking, dietary habits, and relative body weight were the strongest behavioural factors explaining the association in both women and men. When grouped, both material and behavioural factors explained a large part of occupational class differences in health. The direct effect of material factors was larger than their effect through behavioural factors, and the effect of behavioural factors depending on material factors was about half of their independent effect.

Conclusions: Material and behavioural factors explained more than a half of occupational class differences in self rated health among women and one third among men. The effects of material and behavioural factors were mostly independent of each other, although some part of their contribution was shared, especially in women.

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  • Funding: the Helsinki health study is supported by Academy of Finland (number 48118 and number 53245), and the Finnish Work Environment Fund (number 99090). OR is supported by the Academy of Finland (number 45664). PM is supported by the Academy of Finland (number 70631 and number 48600).

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

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