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Economics, Health Explain U.S. Women's Mortality Inequalities
Employment, smoking contribute to widening mortality gap across education levels

THURSDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- The widening gap in mortality across education levels seen among U.S. white women can largely be explained by economic circumstances and health behaviors, according to a study published online May 30 in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Jennifer Karas Montez, Ph.D., from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and Anna Zajacova, Ph.D., from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, investigated explanations for the mortality gap across education levels, which has grown in the United States and is especially pronounced among white women. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality File, social-psychological factors, economic circumstance, and health behaviors were examined as potential explanations for the widening education gap in mortality from 1997 to 2006 among 46,744 45- to 84-year-old white women (4,053 deaths).

The researchers found that there was little support for social-psychological factors, but the growing education gap was explained to statistical non-significance by economic conditions and health behaviors together. The most important individual components were employment and smoking.

"Increasing high school graduation rates, reducing smoking prevalence, and designing work-family policies that help women find and maintain desirable employment may reduce mortality inequalities among women," the authors write.

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