Objectives: We examined whether the social gradient for measures of morbidity is comparable in English and French public employees and investigated risk factors that may explain this gradient.
Methods: This longitudinal study of 2 occupational cohorts-5825 London civil servants and 6818 French office-based employees-used 2 health outcomes: long spells of sickness absence during a 4-year follow-up and self-reported health.
Results: Strong social gradients in health were observed in both cohorts. Health behaviors showed different relations with socioeconomic position in the 2 samples. Psychosocial work characteristics showed strong gradients in both cohorts. Cohort-specific significant risk factors explained between 12% and 56% of the gradient in sickness absence and self-reported health.
Conclusions: Our cross-cultural comparison suggests that some common susceptibility may underlie the social gradient in health and disease, which explains why inequalities occur in cultures with different patterns of morbidity and mortality.