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Socioeconomic Status and Social Inequality

The impact of socioeconomic status on health and life expectancy is regularly confirmed by epidemiological studies.

Persons with low socioeconomic status are more commonly affected by chronic diseases, psychosomatic symptoms, injuries due to accidents, and disabilities. They assess their own health more negatively and report health-related limitations in everyday life more often.

As a consequence, they have higher requirements for medical healthcare services and social protection in the event of illness. The effects of social disadvantages accumulate through the course of their lives and are therefore clearly evident in premature mortality too.

Activities at Robert Koch Institute

Social inequality in health opportunities and risks of disease is a main topic of epidemiological research and health reporting at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Health monitoring data is regularly evaluated according to social status. An index developed by the RKI is usually used for this purpose. This index is based on information on the level of education, occupational status and income situation.

In addition, further observations can be made under consideration of the employment status, way of life or area of residence.

In the context of health reporting, the issue of social inequality and its effects on health is also dealt with using external data sources, for example the German Socio-Economic Panel or the microcensus.

Research Projects and Cooperation

The RKI is represented in the federal government’s panel of scientific experts on poverty and wealth reporting. In this context, the RKI has carried out a number of research projects whose results have been incorporated in the poverty and wealth reports.

The results of these projects and the activities in the context of health reporting have also been used in other reporting systems, such as social reporting (data report) and the special report of the Advisory Council on the Assessment of Developments in the Health System.

In addition to a large number of cooperation agreements with universities and non-university establishments, the Social Epidemiology Working Group is an important platform for external cooperation. The Social Epidemiology Working Group is a collaboration of the German Society for Medical Sociology, the German Society for Social Medicine and Prevention and the German Society for Epidemiology.

Date: 12.03.2024