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Title: Experience of income inequality over the life-course and health in early old age
Author: De Vries, Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 9068
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2012
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Background and aims: The inequality hypothesis states that area-level income inequality causes a change in the psychosocial environment which is consequently detrimental for people’s health. Previous studies in this area have provided mixed support for this hypothesis, particularly among older people. However, the majority of previous studies have failed to adequately account for people’s past experience of inequality over the course of their lives. This project aimed to address this gap in the literature by determining whether and how older people’s past exposure to inequality was related to their subsequent health. Hypotheses: Based on the previous literature, the primary hypotheses of this project were a) that experiencing higher levels of inequality over the life-course should be related to worse subsequent health, b) that inequality experienced during any stage of the life-course should be detrimental for later health, c) that this effect should be mediated by other individual and country-level factors and d) that experience of inequality should be detrimental for health in multiple domains. Data and methods: The project utilised data on the health and circumstances of older people from three large surveys, covering over 60,000 people in 16 countries. Current health was assessed in relation to a) accumulated experience of inequality and b) experience of inequality during three specific periods of the life-course. These associations were tested separately for nine health outcomes, including both subjective and objective measures. Results: The project results demonstrated a significant and robust negative association between life-course experience of inequality and older people’s subsequent physical health, as indicated by objectively measured grip strength and peak flow rate. However, this association was not found for the other seven study outcomes. The project also found only mixed evidence that the associations between inequality and the objectively measured outcomes were mediated by the hypothesised individual and country-level factors.
Supervisor: Blane, David ; Netuveli, Gopal Sponsor: ESRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral