Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Social class, non-employment, and chronic illness: continuing the inequalities in health debate.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 294 doi: (Published 25 April 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;294:1069
  1. S Arber


    The 1981-2 General Household Survey showed steep class gradients in limiting longstanding illness for men and women aged 20-59 that were very similar to the class gradients in mortality in the 1979-83 decennial supplement. The class gradient for women classified by their husband's occupation was stronger than that when they were classified by their own occupation. Men and women who lacked paid employment reported poorer health than the employed and were concentrated in the lower social classes. Inequalities in ill health due to class were partly caused by the higher proportion in the lower social classes who were without work. Class differences in ill health still existed, however, among the currently employed, with unskilled men reporting particularly poor health and women manual workers reporting poorer health than women in non-manual jobs. Class differences were greater for the occupationless than for the currently employed. Thus class remains an important indicator of health inequalities despite the current high level of unemployment.