Alcohol related inequality in income, are health inequalities affected?

This study analysed income-related inequalities in alcohol consumption using longitudinal data over an eight year period for a Swedish cohort of women aged 28-76 years in 1988/89. Income related inequalities in alcohol consumption were measured by the commonly used concentration index. The analysis revealed alcohol consumers to be more concentrated among the rich. The estimated inequality declines over time; the decline was not statistically significant. Income is a large contributor to the inequality. The decrease in inequality is driven by abstinence becoming less common among the poor and more common among the rich. The reduced inequality is mainly due to changes in population patterns.

Outcome and Translation

The findings informed health policy and have been disseminated through presentation and a submitted publication. If a policy goal is to reduce health inequalities, the results suggest that general interventions targeting alcohol consumption should be avoided. If new alcohol interventions are designed, care should be taken to specifically target low income groups.

HERU researchers involved in this research project: Jean-Baptiste Combes

External Collaborators: U-G Gerdtham and J Jarl, (Lund University).


Combes, J.-B., Gerdtham, U.-G. and Jarl, J. (2011) 'Equalisation of alcohol participation among socioeconomic groups over time: an analysis based on the total differential approach and longitudinal data from Sweden', International Journal for Equity in Health, 10.


Combes, J-B., Gerdtham, U-G. and Jarl, J.(2008) ‘Why does socioeconomic inequality of alcohol consumption change as the population ages? Some evidence using Swedish panel data and decomposition analysis’, Health Economist’s Study Group, Aberdeen, August 2008.