Aims/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to determine and quantify socioeconomic position (SEP) inequalities in diabetes mellitus in different areas of Europe, at the turn of the century, for men and women.
Methods: We analysed data from ten representative national health surveys and 13 mortality registers. For national health surveys the dependent variable was the presence of diabetes by self-report and for mortality registers it was death from diabetes. Educational level (SEP), age and sex were independent variables, and age-adjusted prevalence ratios (PRs) and risk ratios (RRs) were calculated.
Results: In the overall study population, low SEP was related to a higher prevalence of diabetes, for example men who attained a level of education equivalent to lower secondary school or less had a PR of 1.6 (95% CI 1.4-1.9) compared with those who attained tertiary level education, whereas the corresponding value in women was 2.2 (95% CI 1.9-2.7). Moreover, in all countries, having a disadvantaged SEP is related to a higher rate of mortality from diabetes and a linear relationship is observed. Eastern European countries have higher relative inequalities in mortality by SEP. According to our data, the RR of dying from diabetes for women with low a SEP is 3.4 (95% CI 2.6-4.6), while in men it is 2.0 (95% CI 1.7-2.4).
Conclusions/interpretation: In Europe, educational attainment and diabetes are inversely related, in terms of both morbidity and mortality rates. This underlines the importance of targeting interventions towards low SEP groups. Access and use of healthcare services by people with diabetes also need to be improved.