Socioeconomic status and smoking: analysing inequalities with multiple indicators

Eur J Public Health. 2005 Jun;15(3):262-9. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cki115. Epub 2005 Mar 8.


Background and aims: Socioeconomic differences in smoking have been well established. While previous studies have mostly relied on one socioeconomic indicator at a time, this study examined socioeconomic differences in smoking by using several indicators that reflect different dimensions of socioeconomic position.

Data and methods: Data derive from Helsinki Health Study baseline surveys conducted among the employees of the City of Helsinki in 2000 and 2001. The data include 6243 respondents aged 40-60 years (response rate 68%). Six socioeconomic indicators were used: education, occupational status, household income per consumption unit, housing tenure, economic difficulties and economic satisfaction. Their associations with current smoking were examined by fitting sequential logistic regression models.

Results: All socioeconomic indicators were strongly associated with smoking among both men and women. When the indicators were examined simultaneously their associations with smoking attenuated, especially when education and occupational status were considered together, and when income and housing tenure were introduced into the models already containing education and occupational status. After mutual adjustment for all socioeconomic indicators, housing tenure and economic satisfaction remained associated with smoking in men. In women, all indicators except income and economic difficulties were inversely associated with smoking after adjustments.

Conclusions: Smoking was associated with structural, material as well as perceived dimensions of socioeconomic disadvantage. Attempts to reduce smoking among the socioeconomically disadvantaged need to target several dimensions of socioeconomic position.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Social Class*
  • Social Justice*
  • Urban Population