The psychosocial versus material hypothesis to explain observed inequality in disability among older adults: data from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study

Adamson, J. A., Ebrahim, S. and Hunt, K. (2006) The psychosocial versus material hypothesis to explain observed inequality in disability among older adults: data from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60(11), pp. 974-980. (doi: 10.1136/jech.2005.044768)

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Objectives: The possible mechanisms for explaining health inequality are subject to debate. This study considers the roles of psychosocial and material mechanisms in observed inequalities in disability among older people. Design: Cross-sectional analysis of cohort study. Participants: 723 respondents aged 63 years from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. Main outcome measure: The Office of Population Census and Surveys Multidimensional Disability Severity Score. Respondents were dichotomised to the highest scoring tertile, and compared with the lowest and mid-tertiles combined. Explanatory measures: Socioeconomic position across adulthood was measured in three ways. Respondents reported perceptions of their own financial position (perceived financial hardship) across four decades of adult life. Data on possession of several indicators of material wealth (eg, ownership of television and washing machine; material conditions) during the same periods were also ascertained. Standard occupational classification was also recorded, based on longest held occupation. The relationship between the measures of socioeconomic position and disability was examined using logistic regression, adjusting for sex, morbidity and lifestyle factors. Results: Perceived financial hardship and material conditions in earlier decades of life were found to be associated with reported disability. However, in the fully adjusted model, there was stronger evidence for material conditions as a predictor of disability: across four decades they remained an independent risk factor for disability after adjustment for sex, morbidity, lifestyle factors and perceived financial hardship. Those in the most deprived material conditions group had 2½times the odds of reporting severe disability than those in the reference group. After adjustment, evidence for an association between perceived financial hardship and reported disability was not convincing. Conclusion: The data provide evidence to support the “material” explanation for observed inequalities in reported disability among older people.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kathryn
Authors: Adamson, J. A., Ebrahim, S., and Hunt, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
ISSN (Online):1470-2738

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