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Socio-economic inequalities in physical functioning: a comparative study of English and Greek elderly men


The associations between socio-economic position (SEP) and physical functioning have frequently been investigated but little is known about which measures of SEP are the best to use for older people. This study examined how different SEP indicators related to the physical functioning of men aged 50 or more years in England and Greece. The data derived from Wave 1 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Self-reported physical functioning limitations and mobility difficulties were combined and categorised into ‘no disability’, ‘mild disability’ and ‘severe disability’. The SEP indicators studied were: wealth, educational level and occupational class. The findings indicate that respondents with less wealth, fewer educational qualifications and lower occupational class were more likely to experience mild or severe physical disability than those of high SEP. When all three measures of SEP were adjusted for each other, in both samples wealth maintained a strong association with mild and severe disability, while education was associated with severe disability but only among English men. Occupational class was not strongly associated with physical disability in either case. Hence, among English and Greek older men, wealth was a more important predictor of physical functioning difficulties than either occupational class or education.

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Address for correspondence: Faiza Tabassum, Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, LondonWC1E 6BT, UK. E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
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