Geographical inequalities of mortality by income in two developed island countries: a cross-national comparison of Britain and Japan

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Jun;60(12):2865-75. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.11.007. Epub 2004 Dec 22.


In this paper we examine the ecological relations between household income distribution and age-grouped mortality in Britain and Japan. Comparable datasets were prepared in terms of age intervals of mortality, household income intervals and geographical units for years around 1990. Then we conducted a series of regression analyses to associate absolute and relative income indices with age and sex-specific standardized mortality ratios (SMRs). The results are as follows: (1) In Britain mortality is lower where inequalities in income are lower, while in Japan there is no obvious relationship. It is, however, apparent that-just as in the case of the USA and Canada-Britain and Japan appear to merge and appear part of a greater pattern when considered as a series of city regions. Thus an overall global relationship between income inequality and mortality may exist. To assess such global relationship, further studies using cross-national regional datasets covering a wide rage of rich nations are desirable. (2) Income-mortality relations are consistent among different age-sex groups in Britain, but there are substantial differences in the relationships as revealed between different demographic groups in Japan. In particular, while absolute income levels are correlated negatively with mortality of working-age men in both countries, mortality of elderly people in Japan is higher where absolute income is higher. This indicates the different historical contexts to the health divides these two different geographical contexts, but further consideration of a more historically nuanced understanding of income-mortality relations is required.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Geography*
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Social Class*
  • Social Justice*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology