Has the Economic Crisis Widened the Intraurban Socioeconomic Inequalities in Mortality? The Case of Barcelona, Spain

Authors: Laia Maynou, Marc Saez and Guillem López-Casasnovas

Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, Vol. 70, No 2, 114-124, March, 2014

Background: There is considerable evidence demonstrating socioeconomic inequalities in mortality, some of which focuses on intraurban inequalities. However, all the studies assume that the spatial variation of inequalities is stable over the time. We challenge this assumption and propose two hypotheses: (i) have spatial variations in socioeconomic inequalities in mortality at an intraurban level changed over time? and (ii) as a result of the economic crisis, has the gap between such disparities widened? In this paper, our objective is to assess the effect of the economic recession on the spatio-temporal variation of socioeconomic inequalities in mortality in Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain). Methods: We used a spatio-temporal ecological design to analyse mortality inequalities at small area level in Barcelona. Mortality data and socioeconomic indicators correspond to the years 2005 and 2008-2011. We specified spatio-temporal ecological mixed regressions for both men and women using two indicators, neighbourhood and year. We allowed the coefficients of the socioeconomic variables to differ according to the levels and explicitly took into account spatio-temporal adjustment. Results: For men and women both absolute and, above all, relative risks for mortality have increased since 2009. In relative terms, this means that the risk of dying has increased much more in the most economically deprived neighbourhoods than in the more affluent ones. Conclusions: Although the geographical pattern in relative risks for mortality in neighbourhoods in Barcelona remained very stable between 2005 and 2011, socioeconomic inequalities in mortality at an intraurban level have surged since 2009.