Connecting the dots on health inequalities: A systematic review on the social determinants of health in Portugal

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34 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: Health inequalities are recognised as a public health issue worldwide, but only a few countries have developed national strategies to monitor and reduce them. Despite its considerable health inequalities, Portugal seems to lack a systematic strategy to tackle them, possibly due to the absence of organised evidence on the issue. We performed a systematic review that aimed to describe the available evidence on social inequalities in health in Portugal, in order to contribute towards a comprehensive and focused strategy to tackle them. Methods: We followed the PRISMA guidelines and searched Scopus, Web of Science and PubMed for studies that looked at the association between a measure of socioeconomic status and a health outcome in the Portuguese resident population since the year 2000. We excluded health behaviours and healthcare use from our search. We performed a qualitative description of the results. Results: Seventy-one publications were selected, all reporting observational analyses, most of them using cross-sectional data. These publications showed strong evidence for health inequalities related to education and gender, chiefly for obesity, self-rated health and mental health. Conclusions: Analysis of the eligible publications showed that current research does not seem to have consistently covered the link between health and key Portuguese social problems. A strategy focusing on the monitoring of most prevalent diseases, most determining socioeconomic factors and vulnerable populations would be crucial to guide academic research in a country in which health inequalities are so ubiquitous and deeply rooted. Registration: This systematic review is not registered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2016


  • Health inequalities
  • Portugal
  • Social determinants of health
  • Socioeconomic factors


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