Background: Little is known about the socioeconomic differences in health-related behaviours in Japan. The present study was performed to elucidate the effects of individual and regional socioeconomic factors on selected health risk behaviours among Japanese adults, with a particular focus on regional variations.
Methods: In a nationally representative sample aged 25 to 59 years old (20,030 men and 21,076 women), the relationships between six risk behaviours (i.e., current smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor dietary habits, physical inactivity, stress and non-attendance of health check-ups), individual characteristics (i.e., age, marital status, occupation and household income) and regional (N = 60) indicators (per capita income and unemployment rate) were examined by multilevel analysis.
Results: Divorce, employment in women, lower occupational class and lower household income were generally associated with a higher likelihood of risk behaviour. The degrees of regional variation in risk behaviour and the influence of regional indicators were greater in women than in men: higher per capita income was significantly associated with current smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress and non-attendance of health check-ups in women.
Conclusion: Individual lower socioeconomic status was a substantial predictor of risk behaviour in both sexes, while a marked regional influence was observed only in women. The accumulation of risk behaviours in individuals with lower socioeconomic status and in women in areas with higher income, reflecting an urban context, may contribute to their higher mortality rates.