Background: We used a relational social-class measure based on property ownership and managerial authority to analyse the longitudinal relationships between class, self-rated health (SRH) and mental illness. To our knowledge, this is the first study using a relational social-class measure to evaluate these relationships longitudinally.
Methods: Using Panel Study of Income Dynamics data from 1984 to 2017, we first assigned respondents aged 25-64 to the not in the labour force (NILF), worker, manager, petit bourgeois (PB) or capitalist classes based on business ownership, managerial authority and employment status. Next, using Cox models, we estimated the confounder-adjusted associations between 2-year-lagged class and incidence of poor/fair SRH and serious mental illness. We also tested whether the associations varied by gender, whether they persisted after more-fully adjusting for traditional socioeconomic-status measures (education and income) and how they changed temporally.
Results: We identified large inequities in poor/fair SRH. NILFs had the greatest hazard, followed by workers, PBs, managers and capitalists. We also identified large inequities in serious mental illness; NILFs and workers had the greatest hazard, while capitalists had the lowest. Class inequities in both outcomes lessened but remained considerable after confounder and socioeconomic-status adjustment, and we found some evidence that the class-SRH relationship varied by gender, as being NILF was more harmful among men than women. Additionally, class inequities in the outcomes decreased somewhat over time.
Conclusion: We identified substantial class inequities in SRH and mental illness. Our findings demonstrate the importance of using relational social-class measures to deepen understanding of health inequities' root causes.
Keywords: health inequalities; social class; social epidemiology; social factors in.
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Conflict of interest statement
Competing interests: None declared.
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