Maron, J., Gomes de Matos, E., Piontek, D., Kraus, L., Pogarell, O.Exploring socio-economic inequalities in the use of medicines: is the relation mediated by health status?
Public Health, 169, 1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2018.12.018
• Health status seems to play a mediating role between socio-economic status (SES) and medicine use.
• Identication and elimination of reasons for poor health among low SES-groups may help to reduce health inequalities directly.
• A decline in medicine use would results in less side-effects and less people with medicine-related misuse and addiction.
Objectives.This study evaluated mediating effects of the health status on the association between socio-economic status (SES) and medicine use. It was hypothesized that more privileged people show a reduced use of medicines, as compared with the underprivileged, because of their superior health status. It was further hypothesized that people may apply medication based on their type of health complaint (ill physical versus mental status).
Study design. Data were taken from the 2012 German Epidemiological Survey of Substance Abuse, a nationally representative cross-sectional study of n = 9084 individuals of the German general population aged 18–64 years.
Methods. Direct and indirect effects of SES on weekly use of analgesics and sedatives/hypnotics were examined by applying generalized structural equation modeling. Self-rated physical and mental health statuses were considered as potential mediators. SES was measured by using educational level as a proxy. All analyses were gender-stratified.
Results. Among men, both physical and mental health mediated the path from SES to the use of analgesics and sedatives/hypnotics, respectively, with a stronger effect of physical health on analgesic use and mental health on sedative/hypnotic use. These effects were only partially found among women.
Conclusions. Social inequalities in health seem to have substantial impact on the prevalence of medicine use. Identification and elimination of the reasons for poor health among people of low SES may, therefore, not only help to reduce health inequalities directly. A decline in the use of medicines would also result in less side-effects and a reduced number of people with medicine-related misuse and addiction.