Socioeconomic inequalities in morbidity among the elderly; A European overview

Martijn Huisman*, Anton E. Kunst, Johan P. Mackenbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There is some evidence on socioeconomic inequality in morbidity among elderly people, but this evidence remains fragmentary. This study aims to give a comprehensive overview of educational and income inequalities in morbidity among the elderly of eleven European countries. Data from the first wave of 1994 of the European Community Household Panel were used. The study population comprised a total of 14,107 men and 17,243 women, divided into three age groups: 60-69, 70-79 and 80+. Three health indicators were used: self-assessed health, cut down in daily activities due to a physical or mental problem, and long-term disability. The results indicate that socioeconomic inequalities in morbidity by education and income exist among the elderly in Europe, in all the countries in this study and all age groups, including the oldest old. Inequalities decline with age among women, but not always among men. Greece, Ireland, Italy and The Netherlands most often show large inequalities among men, and Greece, Ireland and Spain do so among women. To conclude, inequalities in morbidity decrease with age, but a substantive part persists in old age. To improve the health of elderly people it is important that the material, social and cultural resources of the elderly are improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-873
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2003

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