We compared the pattern of socioeconomic inequalities in physical functioning and perceived health among male and female employees in Britain, Finland and Japan. Participants were male and female public sector employees in Britain, Finland and Japan, who were economically active and 40-60 year-olds at the time of data collection. We measured perceived health and physical functioning (SF-36 physical component summary) with standardized health questionnaires. The results obtained here reconfirm the similarity of the patterns of ill-health of those with lower socioeconomic status among non-manual men and women in Britain and Finland. These data also provide good evidence for a socioeconomic gradient in ill-health among Japanese non-manual men, although this gradient was less systematic. For Japanese men poorer health of manual workers as compared to non-manual workers was well demonstrated. However, among Japanese women socioeconomic differences in health were small and inconsistent. In conclusion, Britain, Finland and Japan--representing 'liberal', 'Nordic' and 'conservative' welfare state regimes--produce broadly similar patterns of socioeconomic differences in health among men. However, different patterns of labour force participation and welfare provision in different welfare regimes may bring about different patterns of socioeconomic differences in health for working women. This is exemplified by the lack of health inequalities among employed Japanese women.
Copyright 2004 Elseiver Ltd.