Socioeconomic status and chronic illnesses : an analysis of the National Income Dynamics Study data.
Over the past decade, chronic illnesses have increased significantly in developing regions around the world, with implications for health service provision. Research shows that morbidity follows a social gradient in many countries around the world. Though various studies highlight the importance of socioeconomic status as a predictor of a person’s morbidity and mortality experience, there is a dearth of data and literature in the South African context. This study aimed to address this gap by examining the association between socioeconomic status and diabetes and hypertension among participants aged 35 years and older. This was achieved by undertaking the analysis of secondary data from the National Income Dynamic Study. The findings of the study reveal that there is a significant relationship between socioeconomic factors and chronic health outcomes of individuals. People with lower levels of education were more likely to have a chronic illness than those with higher levels of education. However, interestingly the lowest rates of prevalence were found in the unemployed category in South Africa. This draws attention to the need for further research on employment and chronic disease prevalence. An important finding of the study was the relatively higher prevalence of chronic conditions in rural areas and among the Black/African population. This data suggests that changes in lifestyle and behavior in the context of globalization and urbanization may be contributing to changes in the health profile of these communities. Policy makers need to acknowledge that chronic diseases are no longer the preserve of the wealthy with diseases such as diabetes and hypertension evident across all sectors of South African society. By addressing the causes of chronic conditions policies and programs can aim to prevent the emergence of future epidemics. In the long-term, sustainable progress will only be achieved with greater attention directed towards the socioeconomic factors underlying the health profile of the country.