Inequalities in mortality at older ages decline with indicators of material wealth but persist with educational level

Eur J Public Health. 2015 Dec;25(6):990-5. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckv110. Epub 2015 Jun 16.


Objective: This study aimed to investigate the relationship between education and different indicators of material wealth with mortality, and to analyze whether this relationship varies with the leading causes of death.

Methods: All persons aged 65 and older residing in Spain in 2001 were followed up for 7 years to determine their vital status. The relationship between mortality and four indicators of socioeconomic position (education, number of rooms in home, surface area of home and number of vehicles) was estimated in three age groups: 65-74, 75-84 and 85 and older. Rate ratios and relative index of inequality (RII) were calculated for general mortality and for the leading causes of death by Poisson regression.

Results: In women, the mortality rate ratio for low vs. high educational level was 1.48 for persons aged 65-74, 1.43 for those aged 75-84 and 1.40 for those aged 85 and older. The respective rates for men were 1.30, 1.25 and 1.29. For the indicators of material wealth, the differences between morality rates in the lower vs. the higher socioeconomic categories decline with age. Mortality differences by the leading causes of death decline with age, except in the case of cancer in women and cardiovascular and digestive mortality in men according to educational level.

Conclusions: Relative socioeconomic differences in mortality in the older Spanish population decrease with age using indicators of material wealth but not using educational level. The variation in the pattern of mortality by cause of death by level of education may be responsible for these findings.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death / trends*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology