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Extent of Social Inequalities in Disability in the Elderly: Results From a Population-based Study of British Men

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sheena Ramsay



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Purpose: Little is known about social inequalities in disability in the elderly. We examined the extent and determinants of socioeconomic inequalities in disability and functional limitation in elderly men in Britain. Methods: Disability was ascertained as problems with activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental ADL in a socioeconomically representative sample of 3981 men from 24 British towns who were between 63 to 82 years of age in 2003. We also examined functional limitation. Measures of socioeconomic position were social class, age at leaving full-time education, and car and house ownership. Results: Men in lower social classes had greater risks of both ADL and instrumental ADL disability and functional limitation compared with higher social classes; odds ratios (95% CI) for social class V compared with I were 3.13 (1.64-5.97), 2.87 (1.49-5.51), and 2.65 (1.31-5.35), respectively. Behavioral risk factors (smoking, body mass index, physical activity) and particularly co-morbidity attenuated these differences; together, they reduced relative risks to 1.11 (0.49-2.51), 1.01 (0.45-2.25), and 1.05 (0.46-2.42). Age at leaving full-time education had no relation to functional limitations after taking social class into account. Men who were not house or car owners had greater odds of functional limitation and ADL disability compared with house or car owners, independent of behavioural risk factors, comorbidities and social class. Conclusion: Strong socioeconomic inequalities in disability exist in the elderly, which were considerably explained by behavioral factors and comorbidity. Policy efforts are needed to reduce the social disparities in disability in the elderly. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ramsay SE, Whincup PH, Morris RW, Lennon LT, Wannamethee SG

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Annals of Epidemiology

Year: 2008

Volume: 18

Issue: 12

Pages: 896-903

Print publication date: 01/12/2008

Online publication date: 27/11/2008

Date deposited: 14/06/2017

ISSN (print): 1047-2797

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2585

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2008.09.006

PubMed id: 19041588


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