Progress in reducing inequalities in cardiovascular disease mortality in Europe

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Abstract

Objective To assess whether recent declines in cardiovascular mortality have benefited all socioeconomic groups equally and whether these declines have narrowed or widened inequalities in cardiovascular mortality in Europe. Methods In this prospective registry-based study, we determined changes in cardiovascular mortality between the 1990s and the early 2010s in 12 European populations by gender, educational level and occupational class. In order to quantify changes in the magnitude of differences in mortality, we calculated both ratio measures of relative inequalities and difference measures of absolute inequalities. Results Cardiovascular mortality has declined rapidly among lower and higher socioeconomic groups. Relative declines (%) were faster among higher socioeconomic groups; absolute declines (deaths per 100 000 person-years) were almost uniformly larger among lower socioeconomic groups. Therefore, although relative inequalities increased over time, absolute inequalities often declined substantially on all measures used. Similar trends were seen for ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease mortality separately. Best performer was England and Wales, which combined large declines in cardiovascular mortality with large reductions in absolute inequalities and stability in relative inequalities in both genders. In the early 2010s, inequalities in cardiovascular mortality were smallest in Southern Europe, of intermediate magnitude in Northern and Western Europe and largest in Central-Eastern European and Baltic countries. Conclusions Lower socioeconomic groups have experienced remarkable declines in cardiovascular mortality rates over the last 25 years, and trends in inequalities can be qualified as favourable overall. Nevertheless, further reducing inequalities remains an important challenge for European health systems and policies.

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Di Girolamo, C., Nusselder, W. J., Bopp, M., Brønnum-Hansen, H., Costa, G., Kovács, K., … MacKenbach, J. P. (2020). Progress in reducing inequalities in cardiovascular disease mortality in Europe. Heart, 106(1), 40–49. https://doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2019-315129

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