Studies comparing socioeconomic inequalities in health using several health indicators are scarce. Therefore, this study aims to compare the shape and magnitude of occupational class inequalities across key domains of health, i.e. the subjective, functional and medical domains. Additionally, we examine whether physical or mental workload will affect these inequalities, and whether these effects are specific to particular health indicators.
Cross-sectional survey data from the Helsinki Health Study in 2000 and 2001 were used. Each year employees of the City of Helsinki, reaching 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 years received a mailed questionnaire. 6243 employees responded (80% women, response rate 68%). The socioeconomic indicator was occupational social class. Nine health indicators were included: self-rated health, pain or ache, GHQ-12 mental well-being, limiting long-standing illness, SF-36 physical and mental health functioning, Rose angina symptoms, circulatory diseases and mental problems. Prevalence percentages, odds ratios and inequality indices from logistic regression analysis were calculated.
Occupational class inequalities were found for self-rated health, pain or ache, limiting long-standing illness, physical health functioning, angina symptoms, and circulatory diseases. Physical or mental workload did not account for these inequalities. Inequalities were non-existent or slightly reversed for GHQ-12 mental well-being, SF-36 mental health functioning and mental problems.
Expected occupational class inequalities in health among both women and men were found for global and physical health but not for mental health. The observed inequalities could not be attributed to physical or mental workload.