Johnson B, Al-Hamad A. Trends in socio-economic inequalities in female mortality, 2001-08. Intercensal estimates for England and Wales. Health Statistics Quarterly 2011; 52 (Winter): 3-32

Background. This article presents estimates of annual mortality rates for women of working age by the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) for the period 2001 to 2008. Until recently, it was possible to produce such mortality rates only at the time of the decennial census when populations are enumerated by occupation and NS-SEC. In 2010, ONS published annual intercensal male mortality rates using the Labour Force Survey (LFS) to provide population estimates by age and NS-SEC. This article produces the corresponding estimates for women aged 25 to 59.

Methods. The LFS was used to estimate female populations by age and NS-SEC for each year between 2001 and 2008. Numbers of deaths were obtained from death registrations. For both deaths and populations, the combined method of NS-SEC classification was used, whereby the most advantaged of a married womanís and her husbandís NS-SEC was used to assign the woman to an NS-SEC class. Single women were classified according to their own NS-SEC. Age-standardised mortality rates were derived for each NS-SEC class by year and a number of measures of inequality estimated for each year so that any trends could be identified.

Results. While overall mortality rates for women declined over the period, this was not true for all NS-SEC classes. Managerial and professional occupations and Routine occupations experienced a statistically significant decline in mortality rate over the period. There was no clear trend for the other classes. Absolute measures of inequality showed no clear trend over the period, but relative inequalities tended to increase. Routine occupations had the greatest decline in mortality rate over the period of approximately five deaths per 100,000 per annum.

Conclusions. Socio-economic inequalities in the mortality rates of women appeared to increase between 2001 and 2008. However, the results for women were not as clear as for men with four out of the seven analytic NS-SEC classes not having a statistically significant downward trend in mortality. The degree of annual volatility in the measures suggests that at the current low levels of mortality of working age women, the LFS could not be used to provide population denominators below the national level. Possibly, three-year moving averages would be better trend indicators, but this would reduce the timeliness of the data to some extent.