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A matter of perception: Exploring the role of income satisfaction in the income-mortality relationship in German survey data 1995-2010
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS).
2013 (English)In: Social Science and Medicine, ISSN 0277-9536, E-ISSN 1873-5347, Vol. 99, 72-79 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Individual- and community-level income has been shown to be linked to social inequalities in health and mortality. On the individual level, social comparisons and relative deprivation resulting from them have been identified as relevant mechanisms involved in the relationship between income and health, but it is mainly income-based measures of relative deprivation that have been considered in previous studies. Using income satisfaction, this study employs a perception-based indicator of relative deprivation.

The study, covering the period between 1995 and 2010, utilized the German Socio-Economic Panel. The follow-up included 11,056 men and 11,512 women at employment age 25–64. Discrete-time survival analysis with Cox regression was performed to estimate the effects of relative income position and income satisfaction on all-cause mortality.

The univariate analysis revealed an income gradient on mortality and further showed a strong association between income satisfaction and survival. After education and employment status were adjusted for, the effect of discontent with income on mortality was still present in the female sample, whereas in the male sample only the income gradient prevailed. When self-rated health was controlled for, the hazard ratios of income satisfaction attenuated and turned non-significant for both men and women while the effects of income position remained stable.

In conclusion, the findings suggest that income satisfaction and income position measure different aspects of income inequality and complement one another. Income satisfaction appeared to be a possible contributing component to the causal pathway between income and mortality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 99, 72-79 p.
Keyword [en]
Income satisfaction, relative income position, mortality, relative deprivation, Germany
National Category
Sociology Health Sciences
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-94953DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.10.017ISI: 000329773200010OAI: diva2:657155
Available from: 2013-10-18 Created: 2013-10-18 Last updated: 2014-04-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Others’ income, one’s own fate: How income inequality, relative social position and social comparisons contribute to disparities in health
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Others’ income, one’s own fate: How income inequality, relative social position and social comparisons contribute to disparities in health
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall aim of this thesis is to contribute to a greater understanding of how social inequalities in health evolve causally and to explore the missing links between social position and health in different social and economic contexts.

A premise in the thesis is that in affluent societies, not only material aspects and purchasing power linked to income and social positions are important explanations for the health of individuals, but also the relative socio-economic standards in society. The concept of relative income position was used to explore this notion across time and country contexts: A comparison of income-related health inequalities between the different welfare contexts of Sweden and Germany showed similar magnitudes in poor health. When exploring the role of absolute and relative income changes over time in Sweden, income volatility was found to influence individuals’ health.

Another aim was to explore the specific social mechanisms reflecting intra- and interpersonal social comparisons and their role for health. Subjective measures of social position were found to capture non-material aspects of social positions. Self-rated class affinity revealed strong associations with health, particularly for women. Income satisfaction, predicting mortality, was shown to be a measure that accounts for internalized reference standards regarded as meaningful by individuals.

Conceptually, the used subjective measures capture aspects of social comparisons and relative deprivation and further suggest that not the material dimension of social position alone matters for health. It is also shown that income satisfaction operates as a mediator between income position and mortality. Subjective measures such as income satisfaction and class affinity provide a plausible link in the understanding of how social inequality entails persistent effects on health and mortality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, 2014. 74 p.
Health Equity Studies, ISSN 1651-5390 ; 19
Social inequality, health, income, subjective social position, income satisfaction, relative deprivation, Sweden, Germany
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-102669 (URN)978-91-7447-868-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-05-22, Willam-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2014-04-29 Created: 2014-04-14 Last updated: 2014-04-23Bibliographically approved

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Miething, Alexander
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