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Public Health. 2006 Sep;120(9):841-53. Epub 2006 Aug 1.

Trends in the magnitude of educational inequalities in health in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland during 1994-2004.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, National Public Health Institute, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland. vheh@ktl.fi

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Socioeconomic inequalities in health in the Baltic countries are possibly increasing due to concomitant pressures. This study compared time trends from 1994 to 2004 in the pattern and magnitude of educational inequalities in health in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland.

METHODS:

The data were gathered from cross-sectional postal surveys of the Finbalt project, conducted every second year since 1994 on adult populations (aged 20-64 years) in Estonia (n=9049), Latvia (n=7685), Lithuania (n=11,634) and Finland (n=18,821). Three self-reported health indicators were used: (i) less than good perceived health, (ii) diagnosed diseases, and (iii) symptoms.

RESULTS:

The existing educational inequalities in health in three Baltic countries and Finland remained generally stable over time from 1994 to 2004. Also, the overall prevalence of all three health indicators was generally stable, but in the Baltic countries improvement in perceived health was mainly found among the better-educated men and women. Diagnosed diseases increased in the Baltic countries, except Lithuania, where diseases decreased among the better-educated women. Symptoms increased among the better-educated Estonian and Finnish women.

CONCLUSIONS:

The period from 1994 to 2004 of relative stabilization since the worst conditions of the social transition has not been followed by notable changes in self-reported health, and this appears to be the situation across all educational groups in the Baltic countries. While health inequalities did not markedly change, substantial inequalities do remain, and there were indications of favourable developments mainly among the better-educated respondents. The factors contributing towards increasing health inequalities may only be visible in the future.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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