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Income, income, or income? The effects of different income measures on health in a national survey
  1. Siegfried Geyer
  1. Correspondence to Professor Dr Siegfried Geyer, Medical Sociology Unit, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Strasse 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany; geyer.siegfried{at}


Background The effects of six income types (household post-government income, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development-weighted household post-government income, individual net income, corrected monthly household income and household net income from wages) on subjective health were compared in order to examine to what extent their effects are different.

Methods Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel 2007 were used. The analyses were based on the subsample of 30–60-year-old women and men (N=11 471), incomes were divided into 10 groups of equal size. In addition education, gender and age are considered.

Results The effects of the household incomes were similar by ranging from OR 3.1 to 3.7. For individual income the effect was lower (OR 2.1). This has to be interpreted against the backdrop of a large number of subjects with missing income information. This group consists of not employed, unemployed and retired individuals.

Conclusion The five types of household incomes can be considered as interchangeable with respect to their effects on subjective health. In empirical studies household-based measures are appropriate if material resources or the purchasing power of households are depicted. Individual income is a different measure that should be chosen if the individual position in terms of status or material success is to be measured.

  • Comparison
  • health inequalities
  • health surveys
  • income
  • social epidemiology
  • social inequalities
  • subjective health

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Approval of an ethics committee was not necessary because the analyses were performed with an already existing dataset collected by an external institution, the Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung.

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