Trends in social class inequalities in health status, health-related behaviors, and health services utilization in a Southern European urban area (1983-1994)

Prev Med. 2000 Dec;31(6):691-701. doi: 10.1006/pmed.2000.0751.


Background: The objective of this study was to describe the evolution of social class inequalities in Barcelona (Spain) residents in perceived health status, health-related behaviors, and utilization of health services between 1983 and 1994.

Methods: The information was obtained from the Health Interview Surveys conducted in 1983, 1986, 1992, and 1994 in Barcelona. In this study we included noninstitutionalized people ages >14 years. Social class was obtained from the Spanish adaptation of the British Registrar General classification. We studied health status, health-related behaviors, and health services utilization variables. Age-adjusted percentages and the relative index of inequality were obtained.

Results: Of the health status variables, having been confined to bed and acute restriction of activity in the 2 weeks prior to the interview showed an increase in inequalities by social class in 1994. The pattern of chronic conditions by social class in men did not change between 1983 and 1994. Women had a higher prevalence of chronic conditions and the inequalities among social classes had increased. In men there were no social class inequalities in smoking in 1983. In 1992 and 1994 smoking was more prevalent in men of social classes IV and V. In women, smoking was more prevalent in social classes I and II in 1983 than in social classes IV and V, something that had changed by 1994. Lack of usual physical activity in men was always more prevalent in social classes I and II, and this difference increased since more people of advantaged classes moved into inactivity. Health services utilization showed no inequalities in the years studied.

Conclusion: The changing pattern according to social class of smoking and physical activity practice needs to be taken into account by policy-makers and public health workers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Urban Population