Trends in Socio-Economic Inequalities in Mortality in Ireland 1986-2006

Authors: Richard Layte , Anne Nolan

Research Areas: Health and Quality of Life

Richard Layte and Anne Nolan have been awarded a three year Health Research Award by the Health Research Board (2011-2014) to investigate trends in social class mortality differentials between 1986 and 2006. The presence of pronounced inequalities in mortality and life expectancy across income, education and social class groups is now well established both in Ireland and internationally. Analyses of Irish data from the 1980s and 1990s show that Irish men in unskilled manual jobs had a mortality rate almost three times higher than men in higher professional occupations. Unfortunately, the most recent year for which information on socio-economic inequalities in mortality have been analysed is 1996 and we have no research on what happened over the period of the ?Celtic Tiger?. Ireland?s overall mortality rate had been falling steadily for a number of decades before 1996 but the rate of reduction accelerated significantly around 1999. Research suggests that a large proportion of this abrupt change in mortality can be explained by significantly reduced mortality from circulatory diseases, particularly during the winter months among older Irish people and that this may have be been influenced by the introduction of free primary care for the over 70s in 2001 in tandem with changes in the pattern of prescribing of cardiovascular medicines by general practitioners. It is not known what impact this change in circulatory mortality patterns had on socio-economic inequalities in mortality but research carried out on mortality rates in other European countries would suggest that the decrease in death rates due to cardiovascular diseases may well have increased inequalities. Methodological problems have hindered past research on mortality differentials. This project will develop solutions to these problems and will carry out research on trends in mortality differentials between 1986 and 2006 and variations in trends by cause and geographic location. Only by understanding recent trends will we gain insight into the causes of mortality differentials in Ireland and develop interventions to improve the health and longevity of all social groups..

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