Insights into social disparities in smoking prevalence using Mosaic, a novel measure of socioeconomic status: an analysis using a large primary care dataset

BMC Public Health. 2010 Dec 7;10:755. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-755.


Background: There are well-established socio-economic differences in the prevalence of smoking in the UK, but conventional socio-economic measures may not capture the range and degree of these associations. We have used a commercial geodemographic profiling system, Mosaic, to explore associations with smoking prevalence in a large primary care dataset and to establish whether this tool provides new insights into socio-economic determinants of smoking.

Methods: We analysed anonymised data on over 2 million patients from The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database, linked via patients' postcodes to Mosaic classifications (11 groups and 61 types) and quintiles of Townsend Index of Multiple Deprivation. Patients' current smoking status was identified using Read Codes, and logistic regression was used to explore the associations between the available measures of socioeconomic status and smoking prevalence.

Results: As anticipated, smoking prevalence increased with increasing deprivation according to the Townsend Index (age and sex adjusted OR for highest vs lowest quintile 2.96, 95% CI 2.92-2.99). There were more marked differences in prevalence across Mosaic groups (OR for group G vs group A 4.41, 95% CI 4.33-4.49). Across the 61 Mosaic types, smoking prevalence varied from 8.6% to 42.7%. Mosaic types with high smoking prevalence were characterised by relative deprivation, but also more specifically by single-parent households living in public rented accommodation in areas with little community support, having no access to a car, few qualifications and high TV viewing behaviour.

Conclusion: Conventional socio-economic measures may underplay social disparities in smoking prevalence. Newer classification systems, such as Mosaic, encompass a wider range of demographic, lifestyle and behaviour data, and are valuable in identifying characteristics of groups of heavy smokers which might be used to tailor cessation interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Smoking / economics
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Social Class*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology