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Past and present socioeconomic circumstances and psychotropic medication: a register-linkage study


Background Various domains of socioeconomic circumstances are associated with self-reported mental health, but we lack evidence from studies using medically confirmed mental health outcomes. This longitudinal study aimed to examine the associations of multiple domains of socioeconomic circumstances with subsequent prescribed psychotropic medication among Finnish public sector employees.

Methods Baseline survey data among 40–60-year-old employees of City of Helsinki were linked with Social Insurance Institution of Finland register data on psychotropic medication purchases (n=5563). HRs were calculated using Cox regression to examine associations of parental and own education, childhood and current economic difficulties, occupational class, household income and housing tenure with antidepressants, sleeping pills and sedatives and any psychotropic medication during a 5-year follow-up.

Results In age and previous psychotropic medication adjusted models, the risk of antidepressant medication was higher in those with childhood (women: HR=1.29, men: HR=1.64) and current economic difficulties (women: HR=1.30–1.54), rented housing (women: HR=1.20, men: HR=1.45) and the second lowest income group (men: HR=1.71). Gradual adjustments had little effect on the associations. For sleeping pills and sedatives, similar associations were found in women for current economic difficulties, and in men for housing tenure. Results for any psychotropic medication reflected those observed for antidepressants.

Conclusions Past and present economic difficulties and housing tenure were more important determinants of subsequent psychotropic medication among employees than the conventional socioeconomic determinants. The associations were somewhat inconsistent between the medication groups and the sexes. The results support the importance of examining multiple domains of socioeconomic circumstances simultaneously.

  • Socioeconomic
  • social inequalities
  • social epidemiology
  • health behaviour
  • occupational health
  • sickness absence
  • mortality
  • ageing
  • registers
  • marital status
  • medical sociology FQ

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