Changes in the social patterning of health? The case of Finland 1986-1994

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Mar;44(6):789-99. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(96)00186-4.


This paper analyses the social patterning and change of health status among the Finnish population from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s. A broad structural transformation has been going on in Finland including demographic, social structural and, in the early 1990s, particularly sudden and deep labour market changes. We first examine the patterning of health status and its change among the Finnish adult population by age; secondly by regional structure; thirdly by socioeconomic status, that is educational level; and fourthly by employment status, that is between the employed and the unemployed. Analyses were made separately for men and women. The data derive from two pooled nationwide "Surveys on Living Conditions" which were conducted in 1986 (N = 12,057) and in 1994 (N = 8650). Health status was measured by limiting long-standing illness (LLI) and self-assessed health (SAH) as below good. The overall trend shows that health status has remained stable or improved slightly among the Finnish adult population from 1986 to 1994. Age differences show leveling off as particularly men above age 45 in 1994 reported better health status than eight years before; those below age 45 tend to report somewhat poorer health. Also regional differences have declined; health in the East/North regions is approaching the level of the rest of the country, except the Helsinki Metropolitan region. Educational differences in health status continue to be clear; however, for men, differences in LLI between the two lower educational groups have levelled off by 1994. Also for men, employment status differences in LLI have declined by 1994; no corresponding levelling off was apparent for women. The health status and its social patterning among the Finnish adult population have remained rather stable during the recession and related social structural changes in the early 1990s. Certain levelling off has taken place among men. As a result men's and women's health inequalities now resemble each other more than eight years before. Adverse health consequences of the recession are supposed to take a longer time to show up.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Demography
  • Educational Status
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors