The persistence of socioeconomic inequalities in health, despite all that has been done to reduce social and economic inequalities in many European countries, is one of the great disappointments of public health. In this paper, I summarize the results of a series of studies into the explanation of variations and trends in inequalities in mortality in three European regions: the Nordic countries with their puzzlingly large inequalities in mortality, Southern European countries with their miraculously small inequalities in mortality and Central & Eastern European countries in which inequalities in mortality have disastrously exploded since the early 1990 s. The results of these studies show that inequalities in mortality are remarkably variable and dynamic, which suggests that it may be possible to reduce them if we exploit the entry-points for policy that these studies have also identified, such as poverty, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and lack of access to health care. At the same time, another lesson is that health inequalities are influenced in sometimes unexpected ways by factors that are not under our control, and that we cannot expect to eliminate these health inequalities soon.

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Journal European Journal of Public Health
Grant This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id fp7/278511 - Developing methodologies to reduce inequalities in the determinants of health (DEMETRIQ)
Mackenbach, J.P. (2017). Nordic paradox, Southern miracle, Eastern disaster: Persistence of inequalities in mortality in Europe. European Journal of Public Health, 27, 14–17. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckx160