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Open Access Research article

Socioeconomic inequalities in cause specific mortality among older people in France

Gwenn Menvielle12*, Annette Leclerc12, Jean-François Chastang12 and Danièle Luce12

Author Affiliations

1 Inserm U1018, Epidemiology of occupational and social determinants of health, Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, Inserm, Villejuif, France

2 University of Versailles Saint-Quentin, UMRS 1018, Versailles, France

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:260  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-260

Published: 19 May 2010

Abstract

Background

European comparative studies documented a clear North-South divide in socioeconomic inequalities with cancer being the most important contributor to inequalities in total mortality among middle aged men in Latin Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, Italy). The aim of this paper is to investigate educational inequalities in mortality by gender, age and causes of death in France, with a special emphasis on people aged 75 years and more.

Methods

We used data from a longitudinal population sample that includes 1% of the French population. Risk of death (total and cause specific) in the period 1990-1999 according to education was analysed using Cox regression models by age group (45-59, 60-74, and 75+). Inequalities were quantified using both relative (ratio) and absolute (difference) measures.

Results

Relative inequalities decreased with age but were still observed in the oldest age group. Absolute inequalities increased with age. This increase was particularly pronounced for cardiovascular diseases. The contribution of different causes of death to absolute inequalities in total mortality differed between age groups. In particular, the contribution of cancer deaths decreased substantially between the age groups 60-74 years and 75 years and more, both in men and in women.

Conclusions

This study suggests that the large contribution of cancer deaths to the excess mortality among low educated people that was observed among middle aged men in Latin Europe is not observed among French people aged 75 years and more. This should be confirmed among other Latin Europe countries.