The adverse relationship between income and health is well documented, but less is known of how income trajectories, i.e. downward or upward trends in income, determine health. We therefore link longitudinal income information to cross-sectional data on self-rated health and conduct logistic regression models in order to investigate income trends over time and their relationship with health.
The data, with the exception of income information, are derived from the Swedish Level-of-Living Survey 2000. The information on income was drawn from the income register covering the period 1995 to 2000. We used an age-restricted sample of those 30-64 years of age, and generated a series of models accounting for average income position, lagged income position, income decrease and increase, and annual periods in specific income positions. The analysis was conducted for men and women separately.
Apart from the overall association between income and health, we found a similar pattern when including average and lagged income in the model. The analysis of length of time in a specific income position showed substantial sex differences in poor health. Income decrease was more strongly associated with men’s poor health, whereas income increase revealed only weak associations with self-rated health.
It was shown that income changes and the time dimension of income are important for self-rated health. Self-rated health responds to decreases in absolute and relative income to a greater extent than to income gains over time. Lagged lower income position and its associations with health suggest that socio-economic disadvantages accumulate over time.