Socioeconomic inequalities in health during the Great Recession: A scoping review of the research literature
Tøge, Anne Grete
Berg, John Erik
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Aims: The so-called “Great Recession” in Europe triggered widespread concerns about population health, as reflected by an upsurge in empirical research on the health impacts of the economic crisis. A growing body of empirical studies has also been devoted to socioeconomic inequalities in health during the Great Recession. The aim of the current study is to summarise this health inequality literature by means of a scoping review. Methods: We have performed a scoping review of the research literature (English language) published in the years 2012—2017. Only empirical papers with (1) health status measured on the individual level, (2) information on socioeconomic position (i.e. employment status, educational level, income/wealth, and/or occupational class), and (3) data from European countries in both pre- and post-crisis years were considered relevant. In total, 49 empirical studies fulfilled these inclusion criteria. Results: The empirical findings in the 49 included studies predominantly show that socioeconomic inequalities in health either increased or remained stable from pre- to post-crisis years. Two-thirds (65 percent) of the studies found evidence of either increasing or partially increasing health inequalities. Thus, people in lower socioeconomic strata fared worse overall in terms of health during the Great Recession, compared to people with higher socioeconomic status. Conclusions: The Great Recession in Europe tends to be followed by increasing socioeconomic inequalities in health. Policymakers should take note of this finding. Widening socioeconomic inequalities in health is a major cause of concern, in particular if health deterioration among ‘vulnerable groups’ is caused by accelerating cumulative disadvantages.