Know Thyself: Utilising routinely collected data to gain insight into the social determinants of nurses’ health
Kyle, R., Dibben, C. & Atherton, I. (2015) RCN Annual International Nursing Research Conference and Exhibition 2015, Nottingham, 20 - 22 April 2015 [SLS]
The seminal Whitehall Studies have for decades provided some of the most compelling evidence around the deleterious effects of inequalities on health (Marmot and Brunner, 2005). These cohort studies followed British civil servants over time to ascertain the implications of social circumstances on health. This paper reports new research drawing on routinely collected data about nurses that similarly informs the nursing profession about the health and wellbeing of its members and also provides insights into wider questions around the social determinants of health.
Two of our recent studies are drawn on as a basis for critical reflection. The first used a sample of 13,483 people drawn from a routinely collected cross-sectional health survey of the Scottish population. Analysis estimated prevalence of nurses who were overweight and obese and then compared and contrasted the resulting proportion with other occupational groups. It found that those in the general population were significantly less likely to be overweight compared to nurses (Odds Ratio [OR] 0.45 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 0.62-0.97). The second study used a sample of 4,529 nurses from anonymised linked decennial census and mortality data. Analysis was designed to ascertain if a ‘Glasgow Effect’ (Walsh et al. 2008) was evident amongst nurses in Scotland. It found nurses in the West of Scotland had significantly higher mortality compared to the rest of Scotland (OR 1.62 95% CI 1.22-2.17).
Our findings from these two studies are striking because nurses are a very health literate sub-section of the population. Hence, in line with results from the Whitehall Studies, we provide startling new evidence about the influence of social circumstances and working conditions on health and wellbeing. We conclude by arguing that our compelling findings demonstrate the value of innovative analysis using routinely collected data and have far-reaching research, policy and educational implications.