Many studies have documented, for all European populations for which data are available, that people from lower socioeconomic groups have shorter lives and more often suffer from health problems. The reduction of socioeconomic inequalities in health is an important challenge for health policies. Descriptive research is important to inform these policies, together with explanatory and interventions research. The specific challenges of descriptive research are (a) to document health inequalities for populations, places, and periods not yet covered by previous studies, (b) to move from generic health measures to disease-specific health outcomes, (c) to document inequalities in specific risk factors such as smoking, and (d) to apply improved measures of socioeconomic position. For each area, this paper gives a brief overview of recent progress made in descriptive studies at European level. The illustrations in this paper showed how existing data sources could be used to describe socioeconomic inequalities in health, and how new insights can be obtained by applying innovative methods. Further descriptive work should aim to identify priority areas for explanatory and intervention studies.

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Revue d'Epidemiologie et de Sante Publique
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kunst, A.E. (2007). Describing socioeconomic inequalities in health in European countries: an overview of recent studies. Revue d'Epidemiologie et de Sante Publique, 55(1), 3–11. doi:10.1016/j.respe.2006.12.001