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Open Access Research article

Adverse health effects of low levels of perceived control in Swedish and Russian community samples

Johanna Lundberg1, Martin Bobak2, Sofia Malyutina3, Margareta Kristenson1 and Hynek Pikhart2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Sweden

2 International Institute for Society and Health, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, London, UK

3 Institute of Internal Medicine, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:314  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-314

Published: 2 November 2007



This cross-sectional study of two middle-aged community samples from Sweden and Russia examined the distribution of perceived control scores in the two populations, investigated differences in individual control items between the populations, and assessed the association between perceived control and self-rated health.


The samples consisted of men and women aged 45–69 years, randomly selected from national and local population registers in southeast Sweden (n = 1007) and in Novosibirsk, Russia (n = 9231). Data were collected by structured questionnaires and clinical measures at a visit to a clinic. The questionnaire covered socioeconomic and lifestyle factors, societal circumstances, and psychosocial measures. Self-rated health was assessed by standard single question with five possible answers, with a cut-off point at the top two alternatives.


32.2 % of Swedish men and women reported good health, compared to 10.3 % of Russian men and women. Levels of perceived control were also significantly lower in Russia than in Sweden and varied by socio-demographic parameters in both populations. Sub-item analysis of the control questionnaire revealed substantial differences between the populations both in the perception of control over life and over health. Logistic regression analysis revealed that the odds ratios (OR) of poor self-rated health were significantly increased in men and women with low perceived control in both countries (OR between 2.61 and 4.26).


Although the cross-sectional design does not allow causal inference, these results support the view that perceived control influences health, and that it may mediate the link between socioeconomic hardship and health.