There has been a substantial increase of income inequalities in Sweden over the last 20 years, which also could be reflected in health inequalities, including mental health inequalities. Despite the growing body of literature focusing on health inequalities in Sweden, income-related inequalities in mental health have received little attention. Particularly scarce are research from Northern Sweden and examinations of the social determinants of health inequalities.
The present study seeks to provide evidence regarding inequalities in mental health in Northern Sweden. The specific aims were to (1) quantify the income-related inequality in mental health in Northern Sweden, and (2) determine the contribution of social determinants to the inequality.
The study population comprised 25,646 participants of the 2014 Health on Equal Terms survey in the four northernmost counties of Sweden, aged 16 to 84 years old. Income-related inequalities in mental health were quantified by the concentration index and further decomposed by applying Wagstaff-type decomposition analysis.
The overall concentration index of mental health in Northern Sweden was -0.15 (95% CI: -0.17 to -0.13), indicating income inequalities in mental health disfavoring the less affluent population. The decomposition analysis results revealed that socio-economic conditions, including employment status (31%), income (22.6%), and cash margin (14%), made the largest contribution to the pro-rich inequalities in mental health. The second-largest contribution came from demographic factors, mainly age (11.3%) and gender (6%). Psychosocial factors were of smaller importance, with perceived discrimination (8%) and emotional support (3.4%) making moderate contributions to the health inequalities.
The present study demonstrates substantial income-related mental health inequalities in Northern Sweden, and provides insights into their underpinnings. These findings suggest that addressing the root causes is essential for promoting mental health equity in this region.
Cites: Health Policy. 2007 Oct;83(2-3):186-95 PMID 17316884