House value as an indicator of cumulative wealth is strongly related to morbidity and mortality risk in older people: a census-based cross-sectional and longitudinal study

Connolly, S., O'Reilly, D. & Rosato, M. (2010) International Journal of Epidemiology, 39(2), 383-391. 1 April 2010. [NILS]

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Background There has been relatively little research into health inequalities in older populations. This may be partly explained by the difficulty in identifying appropriate indicators of socio-economic status for older people. Ideally, indicators of socio-economic status to be used in studies of health inequalities in older populations should incorporate some measure of life-time socio-economic standing, and house value may fill this role. This study examined whether an indicator of accumulated wealth based on a combination of housing tenure and house value was a strong predictor of ill-health in older populations.

Methods A total of 191 848 people aged ≥65 years and not living in communal establishments were identified from the 2001 Northern Ireland Census and followed for 5 years. Self-reported health and mortality risk by housing tenure/house value groupings were examined while controlling for a range of other demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

Results Housing tenure/house value was highly correlated with other indicators of socio-economic status. Public-sector renters had worse self-reported health and higher mortality rates than owner occupiers but significant gradients were also found between those living in the highest- and lowest-valued owner-occupier properties. The relationship between housing tenure and value was unchanged by adjustment for indicators of social support and quality of the physical environment. Adjustment for limiting long-term illness and self-reported health at baseline narrowed but did not eliminate the health gains associated with living in more expensive housing.

Conclusions House value of residence is an accessible and powerful indicator of accumulated wealth that is highly correlated with current health status and predictive of future mortality risk in older populations.

Available online: International Journal of Epidemiology,
Output from project: 034


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