Health inequalities according to educational level in different welfare regimes: a comparison of 23 European countries

Sociol Health Illn. 2008 May;30(4):565-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.01073.x. Epub 2008 Feb 20.


The object of this study was to determine whether the magnitude of educational health inequalities varies between European countries with different welfare regimes. The data source is based on the first and second wave of the European Social Survey. The first health indicator describes people's mental and physical health in general, while the second reports cases of any limiting longstanding illness. Educational inequalities in health were measured as the difference in health between people with an average number of years of education and people whose educational years lay one standard deviation below the national average. Moreover, South European welfare regimes had the largest health inequalities, while countries with Bismarckian welfare regimes tended to demonstrate the smallest. Although the other welfare regimes ranked relatively close to each other, the Scandinavian welfare regimes were placed less favourably than the Anglo-Saxon and East European. Thus, this study shows an evident patterning of magnitudes of health inequalities according to features of European welfare regimes. Although the greater distribution of welfare benefits within the Scandinavian countries are likely to have a protective effect for disadvantaged cities in these countries, other factors such as relative deprivation and class-patterned health behaviours might be acting to widen health inequalities.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Educational Status*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Social Welfare*