Mortality differences and inequalities within and between ‘protected characteristics’ groups, in a Scottish Cohort 1991–2009
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Millard, A.D., Raab, G., Lewsey, J., Eaglesham, P., Craig, P., Ralston, K. & McCartney, G. (2015) International Journal for Equity in Health, 14:142 [SLS]
Background Little is known about the interaction between socio-economic status and ‘protected characteristics’ in Scotland. This study aimed to examine whether differences in mortality were moderated by interactions with social class or deprivation. The practical value was to pinpoint population groups for priority action on health inequality reduction and health improvement rather than a sole focus on the most deprived socioeconomic groups.
Methods We used data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study which captures a 5.3 % sample of Scotland and links the censuses of 1991, 2001 and 2011. Hazard ratios for mortality were estimated for those protected characteristics with sufficient deaths using Cox proportional hazards models and through the calculation of European age-standardised mortality rates. Inequality was measured by calculating the Relative Index of Inequality (RII).
Results The Asian population had a polarised distribution across deprivation deciles and was more likely to be in social class I and II. Those reporting disablement were more likely to live in deprived areas, as were those raised Roman Catholic, whilst those raised as Church of Scotland or as ‘other Christian’ were less likely to. Those aged 35-54 years were the least likely to live in deprived areas and were most likely to be in social class I and II. Males had higher mortality than females, and disabled people had higher mortality than non-disabled people, across all deprivation deciles and social classes. Asian males and females had generally lower mortality hazards than majority ethnic (‘White’) males and females although the estimates for Asian males and females were imprecise in some social classes and deprivation deciles. Males and females who reported their raised religion as Roman Catholic or reported ‘No religion’ had generally higher mortality than other groups, although the estimates for ‘Other religion’ and ‘Other Christian’ were less precise.Using both the area deprivation and social class distributions for the whole population, relative mortality inequalities were usually greater amongst those who did not report being disabled, Asians and females aged 35-44 years, males by age, and people aged <75 years. The RIIs for the raised religious groups were generally similar or too imprecise to comment on differences.
Conclusions Mortality in Scotland is higher in the majority population, disabled people, males, those reporting being raised as Roman Catholics or with ‘no religion’ and lower in Asians, females and other religious groups. Relative inequalities in mortality were lower in disabled than nondisabled people, the majority population, females, and greatest in young adults. From the perspective of intersectionality theory, our results clearly demonstrate the importance of representing multiple identities in research on health inequalities.