Socioeconomic status is a key predictor of lifetime health: poorer people can expect to live shorter lives with lower average health-related quality-of-life (HRQoL) than richer people. In this study, we aimed to improve understanding of the socioeconomic gradient in HRQoL by exploring how inequalities in different dimensions of HRQoL differ by age.
Data were derived from the Health Survey for England for 2017 and 2018 (14,412 participants). HRQoL was measured using the EQ-5D-5L instrument. We estimated mean EQ-5D utility scores and reported problems on five HRQoL dimensions (mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort, anxiety/depression) for ages 16 to 90+ and stratified by neighbourhood deprivation quintiles. Relative and absolute measures of inequality were assessed.
Mean EQ-5D utility scores declined with age and followed a socioeconomic gradient, with the lowest scores in the most deprived areas. Gaps between the most and least deprived quintiles emerged around the age of 35, reached their greatest extent at age 60 to 64 (relative HRQoL of most deprived compared to least deprived quintile: females = 0.77 (95% CI: 0.68–0.85); males = 0.78 (95% CI: 0.69–0.87)) before closing again in older age groups. Gaps were apparent for all five EQ-5D dimensions but were greatest for mobility and self-care.
There are stark socioeconomic inequalities in all dimensions of HRQoL in England. These inequalities start to develop from early adulthood and increase with age but reduce again around retirement age.