Background: Socioeconomic inequalities in health are a persistent feature throughout Europe. Researchers and policy makers are increasingly using a lifecourse perspective to explain these inequalities and direct policy. However, there are few, if any, cross national lifecourse comparisons in this area.
Methods: Associations between socioeconomic position (SEP) in childhood and in adulthood and poor self rated health among men and women at midlife were tested in four European studies from England (n = 3615), France (n = 11 595), Germany (n = 4183), and the Netherlands (n = 3801).
Results: For women, mutually adjusted analyses showed significant associations between poor self rated health and low SEP in both childhood and adulthood in England and the Netherlands, only low childhood SEP in Germany and neither childhood nor adulthood SEP in France. For men, mutually adjusted analyses showed significant associations between poor self rated health and low SEP in both childhood and adulthood in France and the Netherlands, only with adult SEP in England and only with childhood SEP in Germany.
Conclusion: In most countries adult SEP showed stronger associations with self rated health than childhood SEP. There are both gender and national differences in the associations between childhood and adulthood SEP. Policies designed to reduce inequalities in health need to incorporate a lifecourse perspective that is sensitive to different national and gender issues. Ultimately, more cross national studies are required to better understand these processes.
- social inequalities
- socioeconomic position
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