Background The social inequality in mortality is due to differential incidence of several disorders and injury types, as well as differential survival. The resulting clustering and possible interaction in disadvantaged groups of several disorders make multimorbidity a potentially important component in the health divide. This study decomposes the effect of education on mortality into a direct effect, a pure indirect effect mediated by multimorbidity and a mediated interaction between education and multimorbidity.
Methods The study uses the Danish population registers on the total Danish population aged 45–69 years. A multimorbidity index based on all somatic and psychiatric hospital contacts as well as prescribed medicines includes 22 diagnostic groups weighted together by their 5 years mortality risk as weight. The Aalen additive hazard model is used to estimate and decompose the 5 years risk difference in absolute numbers of deaths according to educational status.
Results Most (69%–79%) of the effect is direct not involving multimorbidity, and the mediated effect is for low educated women 155 per 100 000 of which 87 is an effect of mediated interaction. For low educated men, the mediated effect is 250 per 100 000 of which 93 is mediated interaction.
Conclusion Multimorbidity plays an important role in the social inequality in mortality among middle aged in Denmark and mediated interaction represents 5%–17%. As multimorbidity is a growing challenge in specialised health systems, the mediated interaction might be a relevant indicator of inequities in care of multimorbid patients.
Data availability statement
Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data are according to Danish law kept at Statistics Denmark, and may be accessible with special permission.
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Contributors FD and IA designed the study. FD and ACL wrote the first draft. JBB and JP were responsible for the multimorbidity index and AMB made the calculations. All authors have commented subsequent drafts. FD is guarantor.
Funding Danish Cancer Society R73-A4741.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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