Can subjective and objective socioeconomic status explain minority health disparities in Israel?

Orna Baron-Epel, Giora Kaplan
Social Science & Medicine 2009, 69 (10): 1460-7
Disparities in health exist between the three main population groups in Israel, non-immigrant Jews, immigrants from the former Soviet Union (arriving in Israel since 1990) and Arabs. This study examines the relationship between health and socioeconomic status in this multicultural population and assesses to what extent subjective and objective socioeconomic measures may explain the disparities in health. A random cross sectional telephone survey of 1004 Israelis aged 35-65 was performed. The questionnaire measured physical and mental health-related quality of life using the Short Form 12. Information regarding subjective socioeconomic status (SSS) and objective socioeconomic status (SES) was collected. Arabs and immigrant women from the former Soviet Union had worse physical health compared to non-immigrant Jews. Immigrant and Arab men and women had worse mental health compared to non-immigrant Jews. Multivariable log-linear regression analysis adjusting for age, SSS or SES explained the disparities in physical health between Arab and non-immigrant Jewish men. However, SSS and SES did not explain the disparities in physical health between the three groups of women. The disparities in mental health between immigrants and non-immigrant Jews can be explained by SSS for both men and women, whereas the disparities between Arabs and Jews can be explained by objective SES only among women. Employed men reported better physical and mental health. Part of the disparities in mental health in Israel can be attributed to differences in SSS and SES in the different groups. However, there is a need to identify additional factors that may add to the disparities in both physical and mental health. The disparities due to socioeconomic status vary by health measure and population group.

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