Shifting determinants of health inequalities in unstable times: Portugal as a case study

Inês Campos-Matos, Giuliano Russo, Luzia Gonçalves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We explore how health inequalities (HI) changed in Portugal over the last decade, considering it is one of the most unequal European countries and has gone through major economic changes. We describe how inequalities in limitations changed considering different socioeconomic determinants, in order to understand what drove changes in HI.

Methods: We used cross-sectional waves from the European Survey on Income and Living Conditions database to determine how inequalities in health limitations changed between 2004 and 2014 in Portugal in residents aged 16 years and over. We calculated prevalence estimates of limitations and differences between income terciles, the concentration index for each year and its decomposition and multiple logistic regressions to estimate the association between socioeconomic determinants and limitations.

Results: The prevalence of health limitations increased in Portugal since 2004, especially after 2010, from 35 to 47%. But the difference between top and bottom income terciles decreased from 23 to 10 percentage points, as richer people experienced a steeper increase. This was driven by an increase in prevalence among economically active people, who, from 2011 onwards, had more limitations (OR and 95% CI were 2.42 [2.13-2.75] in 2004 and 0.71 [0.65-0.78] in 2014).

Conclusion: These results suggest worsening health in Portugal in the last decade, possibly connected to periods of economic instability. However, absolute HI decreased considerably in the same period. We discuss the possible role of diverse adaptation capacity of socioeconomic groups, and of high emigration rates of young, healthier people, reflecting another side of the 'migrant health effect'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-9
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • income
  • internship and residency
  • portugal
  • socioeconomic factors
  • economics
  • medical residencies
  • health disparity
  • living arrangements
  • wave - physical agent


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