The economic resources available to an individual or a household have been hypothesised to affect health through the direct material effects of living conditions as well as through social comparison and experiences of deprivation. The focus so far has been mainly on current individual or household income, and there is a lack of studies on wealth, a potentially relevant part of household resources. We studied the associations of household wealth and household income with self-rated health, and addressed some theoretical issues related to economic advantage and health. The data were from questionnaire survey of Finnish men and women aged from 45 to 67 years, who were employed by the City of Helsinki from five to seven years before the collection of the data in 2007. We found household wealth to have a strong and consistent association with self-rated health, poor health decreasing with increasing wealth. The relationship was only partly attributable to the association of wealth with employment status, household income, work conditions and health-related behaviour. In contrast, the association of household income with self-rated health was greatly attenuated by taking into account employment status and wealth, and even further attenuated by work conditions. The results suggested a significant contribution of wealth differentials to differences in health status. The insufficiency of current income as the only measure of material welfare was demonstrated. Conditions associated with long-term accumulation of material welfare may be a significant aspect of the causal processes that lead to socioeconomic inequalities in ill health.
Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.