Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Contribution of material, occupational, and psychosocial factors in the explanation of social inequalities in health in 28 countries in Europe
  1. B Aldabe1,2,3,4,
  2. R Anderson5,
  3. M Lyly-Yrjänäinen5,
  4. A Parent-Thirion5,
  5. G Vermeylen5,
  6. C C Kelleher4,
  7. I Niedhammer1,2,3,4,5
  1. 1INSERM, U1018, CESP Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, Epidemiology of Occupational and Social Determinants of Health Team, Villejuif, France
  2. 2Université Paris Sud 11, UMRS 1018, Villejuif, France
  3. 3Université de Versailles St-Quentin, UMRS 1018, Villejuif, France
  4. 4UCD School of Public Health & Population Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  5. 5European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Isabelle Niedhammer, UCD School of Public Health & Population Science, University College Dublin, Woodview House, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland; isabelle.niedhammer{at}


Objectives To analyse the associations between socio-economic status (SES), measured using occupation, and self-reported health, and to examine the contribution of various material, occupational and psychosocial factors to social inequalities in health in Europe.

Methods This study was based on data from the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) carried out in 2003. The total sample consisted of 6038 and 6383 working men and women in 28 countries in Europe (response rates: 30.3–91.2%). Each set of potential material, occupational and psychosocial mediators included between eight and 11 variables. Statistical analysis was performed using multilevel logistic regression analysis.

Results Significant social differences were observed for self-reported health, manual workers being more likely to be in poor health (OR=1.89, 95% CI 1.46 to 2.46 for men, OR=2.18, 95% CI 1.71 to 2.77 for women). Strong social gradients were found for almost all potential mediating factors, and almost all displayed significant associations with self-reported health. Social differences in health were substantially reduced after adjustment for material, occupational and psychosocial factors, with material factors playing a major role. The four strongest contributions to reducing these differences were found for material deprivation, social exclusion, financial problems and job reward. Taking all mediators into account led to an explanation of the social differences in health by 78–100% for men and women.

Conclusion The association between SES and poor health may be attributed to differential distributions of several dimensions of material, occupational and psychosocial conditions across occupational groups. Interventions targeting different dimensions might result in a reduction in social inequalities in health.

  • Social inequalities in health
  • self-reported health
  • occupation
  • Europe
  • self-rated health
  • occupational
  • social inequalities

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Data from the European Foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions (EU Agency).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.