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Social Inequalities in Health in United States

Social Inequalities in health are marked and, in fact, have widened over time for a number of health indicators in the United States, most notably in life expectancy, infant mortality, cancer and cardiovascular mortality, and HIV/AIDS, according a new study published in the International Journal of MCH and AIDS (IJMA).

The study entitled “Social Determinants of Health in the United States: Addressing Major Health Inequality Trends for the Nation, 1935-2016” which was published in the latest issue of the journal examines many important health inequality trends by social determinants such as race/ethnicity, education, income, poverty, area deprivation, unemployment, housing, rural-urban residence, and geographic location.

The following are some of the key findings of the study:

  • Life expectancy of Americans increased from 69.7 years in 1950 to 78.8 years in 2015. However, disparities have persisted. In 2015, life expectancy was highest for Asian/Pacific Islanders (87.7 years) and lowest for African Americans (75.7 years).
  • There are wide disparities in US life expectancy – a gap of more than 17 years in life expectancy between African American men (72.3 years) and Asian/Pacific Islander women (89.7 years).
  • Life expectancy is lower in rural areas of the United States. Rural-urban disparities in life expectancy have widened over the past 25 years. Life expectancy ranges from 74.5 years for men in rural areas to 82.4 years for women in large metropolitan areas.
  • During the past eight decades, infant mortality rates have decreased greatly for all groups. However, racial disparities have widened over time. In 2015, the mortality rate for African American infants was 11.4 per 1,000 live births, 2.3 times higher than the rate of 4.9 for white infants.
  • Infant mortality is two times greater in the poorest communities of the US compared to the most-affluent communities.
  • Men with less than a high school education and those below the poverty level have 2.6 times higher lung cancer mortality than their more educated and affluent counterparts.
  • Men and women with less than a high school education have, respectively, 42% and 120% higher colorectal cancer mortality risks than those with a college degree.
  • Women with less than a high school education and below the poverty level have 6.3 and 4.0 times higher cervical cancer mortality than women with the highest education and income levels, respectively.
  • Men and women with low education and incomes have 46-76% higher CVD mortality than their counterparts with high education and income levels. Women in transport occupations have 2.6 times higher mortality risks than those in executive and managerial occupations.

For further information, please contact IJMA at: info@mchandaids.org

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