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Study reveals new wrinkle in growing US health gap
Date:2/1/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio Most studies that have examined growing levels of health disparity in the United States have focused on the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in terms of socioeconomic factors such as education and income.

But a new study has found, for the first time, that health disparities have grown dramatically among people in the same socioeconomic groups often times more than the disparities have grown between groups.

For example, researchers found that health disparities between employed and unemployed men decreased over the course of the study, while disparities among men who were employed actually increased.

"People with the same socioeconomic status differ much more from each other in terms of health than they did 20 or so years ago," said Hui Zheng, lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

"This is an issue that really hasn't been studied before and needs to be examined more closely."

Zheng conducted the study with Kenneth Land of Duke University. Their results appear in the March 2012 issue of the journal Social Science Research.

The study is based on data from the National Health Interview Survey for the 24-year period from 1984 to 2007. The survey, which includes about 30,000 people each year, is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The survey asked respondents to rate their own health on a five-point scale from poor to excellent. While this is a self-report and not based on any objective health data, previous studies have shown that self-reported health status is a good indicator of objective health and is actually better at predicting mortality among the elderly than assessments by doctors, Zheng said.

For one part of the study, the researchers separated the respondents into 432 groups based on various combinations of family income, education, employment status, age, race and marital status
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Contact: Hui Zheng
Zheng.64@sociology.osu.edu
614-688-8348
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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