Are the poor dying younger in Malaysia? An examination of the socioeconomic gradient in mortality

Jeevitha Mariapun, Noran N. Hairi, Chiu Wan Ng

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Introduction: Socioeconomic inequalities in health represent unfairness in the health distribution of a population. Efforts to produce information on mortality distributions in many low and middle income countries (LMICs) are mostly hampered by lack of data disaggregated by socioeconomic groups. In this paper we describe how mortality statistics obtained from multiple data sources were combined to provide an evaluation of the socioeconomic distribution of mortality in Malaysia, a LMIC located in the Asia Pacific region. Methods: This study has an ecological design. As a measure of socioeconomic status, we used principal component analysis to construct a socioeconomic index using census data. Districts were ranked according to the standardised median index of households and assigned to each individual in the 5-year mortality data. The mortality indicators of interest were potential years of life lost (PYLL), standardised mortality ratio (SMR), infant mortality rate (IMR) and under-5 mortality rate (U5MR). Both socioeconomic status and mortality outcomes were used compute the concentration index which provided the summary measure of the magnitude of inequality. Results: Socially disadvantaged districts were found to have worse mortality outcomes compared to more advantaged districts. The values of the concentration index for the overall population of the Peninsula are C = -0.1334 (95% CI: -0.1605 to -0.1063) for the PYLL, C = -0.0685 (95% CI: -0.0928 to -0.0441) for the SMR, C = -0.0997 (95% CI: -0.1343 to -0.0652) for the IMR and C = -0.1207 (95% CI: -0.1523 to -0.0891) for the U5MR. Mortality outcomes within ethnic groups were also found to be less favourable among the poor. Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that socioeconomic inequalities disfavouring the poor exist in Malaysia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0158685
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

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