Socio-economic inequalities

Quick links:


Definitions

Kawachi et al define an individual’s socio-economic status as a person’s social and economic position in relation to others, based on income, education and occupation.

The Scottish Government defines income inequality as the gap between the highest and lowest earning households. (See Achieving Our Potential: A Framework to tackle poverty and income inequality in Scotland).

Low income below an agreed threshold is described as poverty. There are two official measures of poverty in Scotland:

Absolute poverty

This is a measure of whether those in the lowest income households are seeing their incomes rise in real terms.

Relative poverty

This is a measure of whether those in the lowest income households are keeping pace with the growth of incomes in the economy as a whole.

See the Scottish Government Income and Poverty webpages for more information and the most up-to-date statistics.

 

Further sources of data:

The Scottish Public Health Observatory’s Life circumstances pages provide links to policy, data sources and references in relation to income, education and deprivation.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2012 is used as a relative measure of deprivation, identifying small area concentrations (called datazones) of multiple deprivation, based on indicators across seven domains: income, employment, health, education, housing, geographic access and crime.

Further trends in poverty and presentation of data by age, sex, deprivation, geography can be found in the NHS Health Scotland report Dimensions of Diversity.

The Scottish Government publish high level summaries of statistical trends for employment and economic activity, earnings and benefits, and adult literacy and benefits.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2012is used as a relative measure of deprivation, identifying small area concentrations (called datazones) of multiple deprivation, based on indicators across seven domains: income, employment, health, education, housing, geographic access and crime.

 Further trends in poverty and presentation of data by age, sex, deprivation, geography can be found in the NHS Health Scotland report Dimensions of Diversity.

The Scottish Government publish high level summaries of statistical trends for employment and economic activity, earnings and benefits, and adult literacy and benefits.

 

Policy

The Scottish Government has a multi-dimensional approach to socio-economic inequality, reflected in the National Performance Framework around which the entire public sector in Scotland is aligned.

Equally Well, Scotland´s framework on health inequalities, together with Achieving our Potential and the Early Years Framework, provide the means for the public sector to tackle the root causes of health inequalities in Scotland.

The Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland sets out the Scottish Government’s approach to tackling child poverty with three main priorities around maximising household resources, improving children's wellbeing and life chances and well designed, sustainable places.

In addition, the Christie Commission report is a key driver for policy and budget allocation, since it highlights developments on inequalities and the need for preventative spend.

Scotland´s Regeneration Strategy sets out a £175 million programme of investment to support the country´s most disadvantaged communities, transforming the prospects of the people who live there.

The Better Health Better Care: Action Plan makes explicit the commitment of the NHS in ‘Helping People To Sustain And Improve Their Health, Particularly In Disadvantaged Communities’, including actions relating to anticipatory care, housing, regeneration and eradication of child poverty.

The Health Care Quality Strategy for NHSScotland (Scottish Government, 2010) states that:

'Each of the aligned and integrated national programmes, initiatives and interventions pursued in support of achieving the three Quality Ambitions will require to be fully assessed in terms of their impact on equalities through a Health Inequalities Impact Assessment (HIIA), which includes mandatory Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA)' (p24).

 


Health issues

There is a clear relationship between social inequalities and poor health. Based on survey data we know that income is strongly associated with some health risk factors, such as smoking, diet and obesity in women. For others (such as physical activity and alcohol) the association is more complex. People on low income (especially young adults) have poorer mental health, worse self-rated health and higher levels of mortality (Gordon et al, 2010).

A 2005 NICE evidence review suggests a relationship between unemployment and health and a strong association between unemployment and poor mental health. The complex causal relationship though is less clear, confounded by other variables such as educational attainment, the environment and economic circumstance.

Research on health inequalities indicates that poor health is not limited to those at the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy:

While those in the poorest circumstances are in the poorest health, this is part of a broader social gradient in health. This means that it is not only the poorest groups and communities who have poorer health than those in the most advantaged circumstances. In addition, there are large numbers of people who, while they could not be described as socially excluded, are relatively disadvantaged in health terms.’ (Graham and Kelly, 2004, page 2).

 

We use cookies to help improve this website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue. Don't show this message again