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Open Access Research article

Socioeconomic status and survival of cirrhosis patients: A Danish nationwide cohort study

Peter Jepsen12*, Hendrik Vilstrup2, Per Kragh Andersen3 and Henrik Toft Sørensen12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

2 Department of Medicine V (Hepatology and Gastroenterology), Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

3 Department of Biostatistics, Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Gastroenterology 2009, 9:35  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-9-35

Published: 18 May 2009

Abstract

Background

Low socioeconomic status is a risk factor for liver cirrhosis, but it is unknown whether it is a prognostic factor after cirrhosis diagnosis. We examined whether marital status, employment, and personal income were associated with the survival of cirrhosis patients.

Methods

Using registry-data we conducted a population-based cohort study of 1,765 Danish cirrhosis patients diagnosed in 1999–2001 at age 45–59 years. Follow-up ended on 31 December 2003. With Cox regression we examined the associations between marital status (never married, divorced, married), employment (employed, disability pensioner, unemployed), personal income (0–49, 50–99, 100+ percent of the national average) and survival, controlling for gender, age, cirrhosis severity, comorbidity, and substance abuse.

Results

Five-year survival was higher for married patients (48%) than for patients who never married (40%) or were divorced (34%), but after adjustment only divorced patients had poorer survival than married patients (adjusted hazard ratio for divorced vs. married = 1.22, 95% CI 1.04–1.42). Five-year survival was lower for disability pensioners (31%) than for employed (46%) or unemployed patients (48%), also after adjustment (adjusted hazard ratio for disability pensioners vs. employed = 1.35, 95% CI 1.09–1.66). Personal income was not associated with survival.

Conclusion

Marital status and employment were associated with the survival of cirrhosis patients. Specifically, divorced cirrhosis patients and cirrhosis patients who never married had a poorer survival than did married cirrhosis patients, and cirrhosis patients who were disability pensioners had a poorer survival than did employed or unemployed cirrhosis patients. The poorer survival for the divorced and for the disability pensioners could not be explained by differences in other socioeconomic factors, gender, age, cirrhosis severity, substance abuse, or comorbidity. Personal income was not associated with survival.