Socioeconomic conditions, lifestyle factors, and self-rated health among men and women in Sweden

Anu Molarius, Kenneth Berglund, Charli Eriksson, Mats Lambe, Eva Nordström, Hans G Eriksson, Inna Feldman
European Journal of Public Health 2007, 17 (2): 125-33

BACKGROUND: Socioeconomic conditions and lifestyle factors have been found to be related to self-rated health, which is an established predictor of morbidity and mortality. Few studies, however, have investigated the independent effect of material and psychosocial conditions as well as lifestyle factors on self-rated health.

METHODS: The association between socioeconomic conditions, lifestyle factors, and self-rated health was investigated using a postal survey questionnaire sent to a random population sample of men and women aged 18-79 years during March-May 2000. The overall response rate was 65%. The area investigated covers 58 municipalities in the central part of Sweden. Multivariate odds ratios for poor self-rated health were calculated for a range of variables. A total of 36 048 subjects with full data were included in the analysis. Similar analyses of the influence of working conditions were conducted among those employed aged 18-64 years (17 820 subjects).

RESULTS: The overall prevalence of poor self-rated health was 7% among men and 9% among women. Poor self-rated health was most common among persons who had been belittled, who had experienced economic hardship, who lacked social support, or who had retired early. A low educational level was independently associated with poor self-rated health among men, but not among women. Physically inactive as well as underweight and obese subjects were more likely to have poor self-rated health than other subjects. Working conditions associated with poor self-rated health were dissatisfaction with work, low job control and worry about losing one's job.

CONCLUSION: While a cross-sectional study does not allow definite conclusions as to which factors are determinants and which are consequences of poor self-rated, the present findings support the notion that both psychosocial and material conditions as well as lifestyle factors are independently related with poor self-rated health.

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