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

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"Health scholars often emphasize between-groups disparities in health, but here we found that within-group disparities often far exceed the between-groups disparities, and the changes in total health disparities in the last two decades are mainly driven by the changes in the within-group disparities," Zheng said.

The data from this study can't say why within-group health disparities have increased over the past 24 years. Several factors may be in play, depending on the group. For example, the increase in disparity among employed men may be partially due to an increase in the number of men employed only part-time, which may reduce their access to health care services compared to full-time employees.

Overall, other studies have suggested that within-group income instability has increased over the past decades, due to declining unionization and increasing number of people with lower-wage, insecure jobs. This type of instability may lead to greater health disparities within groups, he said.

"We need to find out more about how rising within-group income instability affects rising within-group health disparities," he said.

Zheng said the study identified another source of the growing health gap in the overall population, and that has to do with changes in population composition.

Generally, the researchers found that there are fewer Americans in groups that enjoy the best levels of self-rated health. That was especially true for men. Over the 24 years of the study, men became increasingly less likely to be employed, and less likely to attain middle or upper-income levels both of which are associated with less health disparity.

In contrast, women saw increases in college attainment, employment rate, and middle and upper-income attainment, all of which led to declining health disparities for women in this time period.

These results show how positive changes in the nation's population composition can h
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Contact: Hui Zheng
Zheng.64@sociology.osu.edu
614-688-8348
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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