Do socioeconomic health differences persist in nonagenarians?

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2013 Sep;68(5):837-47. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbt067. Epub 2013 Jul 25.


Objectives: Social inequality in health is well documented in younger adults and the younger old adults, but data from the very old adults are scarce. We used a representative population sample to investigate socioeconomic differences in health and functioning among nonagenarian men and women.

Method: Data came from the Vitality 90+ Study. All individuals aged 90 and older in the city of Tampere, Finland, were included, irrespective of health or dwelling place. Data were collected from 1,283 participants whose age range ran from 90 to 107 years. Education and former main occupation were used as indicators of socioeconomic status, and health was measured as functional ability, comorbidity, and self-rated health. Data were analyzed in a cross-sectional design using cross tabulation, ordered regression model with marginal effects, and binary logistic regression model.

Results: Manual workers had poorer functional ability and health than upper nonmanuals and similarly the low- educated suffered more from health issues than the high-educated. Most analyses showed a graded association between the lower socioeconomic status and a poorer health outcome. On each level of the socioeconomic hierarchy, men had better functional status than women.

Discussion: We found socioeconomic differences in functional ability, comorbidity, and self-rated health in nonagenarians. Our findings suggest that social disparity in health and functioning exists in very old age.

Keywords: Comorbidity; Functional health status; Health disparities; Oldest-old; Self-rated health; Socioeconomic status..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged, 80 and over / statistics & numerical data*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Status
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors