From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

The Equalisation Hypothesis

Given evidence from other research that the earlier period of childhood is characterised by health inequalities, this study examined the hypothesis of equalisation in health: specifically, that class differences in health might be reduced, removed or even reversed between childhood and adolescence.  Based on the 11 to 16/16+ study, the analysis compared the social class patterning of several dimensions of health at ages 11 and 15 years. 

 While several health measures, e.g. longstanding illness, showed no class association at either age, evidence of equalisation was found in respect of physical symptoms for males, and malaise symptoms for females.  A strong reverse gradient for malaise symptoms among females at age 15 was replicated in a separate analysis which showed middle-class females to be in the poorest mental health (GHQ).  By contrast, in males class differences in accidents and injuries, particularly resulting from violence, increased between ages 11 and 15, and there was some evidence of the same in both sexes for self-rated health.  Changes in the social patterning of health between childhood and youth, therefore, vary according to the dimension of health concerned, only some supporting the equalisation hypothesis.  Overall, the predominant pattern is one of little or no class variation from late childhood to mid-adolescence.

Publications

2004

West P, Sweeting H. Evidence on equalisation in health in youth from the West of Scotland. Social Science & Medicine 2004;59:13-27

pubmed  

1997

West P. Health inequalities in the early years: is there equalisation in youth?. Social Science & Medicine 1997;44:833-58

open access  

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Former Staff

Glossary

  • General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)

    A standard screening device for identifying minor (non-psychotic) psychiatric disorder, often referred to as ‘psychological distress'.

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