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Social determinants of health: Facts and figures: Previous page | 1,2

Examples of health inequities

March 2005

Between countries

  • Mortality among children aged under five ranges from between 316 per 1000 live births in Sierra Leone (highest in the world) to three per 1000 in Iceland (lowest in the world). [1]
  • Life expectancy at birth ranges from 34 years in Sierra Leone (lowest in the world) to 81.9 in Japan (highest in the world). [1]
  • The probability of a man dying between ages 15 and 60 is 8.3% in Sweden, 46.4% in Russia, 90.2% in Lesotho. [2]
  • Births attended by skilled health personnel range from 100% in Sweden to 12% in Bangladesh and 6% in Ethiopia. [3]

Within countries

  • In Indonesia, under-five mortality is nearly four times higher in the poorest fifth of the population than in the richest fifth. [4]
  • In the USA, there is a twenty-year gap in life expectancy between the least and most advantaged. [5]
  • In England and Wales there was a 7.4 year gap in life expectancy between men in professional occupations and men in unskilled manual occupations (1997-1999 figures). [6]
  • In Australia, there is a 20-year gap in life expectancy between Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian average (1999 – 2001 figures). [7]
  • The postneonatal (28 days-11 months) death rate for American Indians and Alaska Native people is almost double that of white Americans. [8]
  • In Northern Ireland among women, those in the lowest social class are 60% more likely to experience some form of neurotic disorder than those in the highest social class. [9]


  • [1] World Health Organisation. The World Health Report 2004: Changing History. WHO, Geneva.
  • [2] World Health Report 2003: Shaping the Future. WHO, Geneva).
  • [3] The Human Development Report 2004, United Nations Development Programme.
  • [4] Victora CG, Wagstaff A, Schellenberg JA, Gwatkin D, Claeson M, Habicht JP. Applying an equity lens to child health and mortality: more of the same is not enough. Lancet 2003; 362:233-41.
  • [5] Murray, C. J. L., Michaud, C. M., McKenna, M. T., and Marks, J. S. U.S. Patterns of Mortality by County and Race: 1965-94. 1-97. 1998. Cambridge,MA, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.
  • [6] Donkin, A., P. Goldblatt, and K. Lynch. 2002. Inequalities in life expectancy by social class, 1972-1999. Health Statistics Quarterly, no. 15:5-15.
  • [7] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Commissioner, Statistics, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. A statistical overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, 2003).
  • [8] "Health, United States, 2004", US Department of Health and Human Services (2202 Figures).
  • [9] Ministry for health, social services, and public safety. Investing for Health. Belfast: Northern Ireland Assembly, 2002.

Social determinants of health: Facts and figures: 1,2

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