The legitimacy of policies that aim at tackling socioeconomic inequalities in health can be challenged if they do not reflect the conceptualisations of health that are valued in all strata. Therefore, this study analyses how different socioeconomic groups formulate their own answers regarding: what does health mean to you?
Concept mapping procedures were performed in three groups that differ in educational level. All procedures followed exactly the same design.
Area of the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Lay persons with a lower, intermediate and higher educational level (+/- 15/group).
The concept maps for the three groups consisted of nine, eight and seven clusters each, respectively. Four clusters occurred in all groups: absence of disease/disabilities, health-related behaviours, social life, attitude towards life. The content of some of these differed between groups, for example, behaviours were interpreted as having opportunities to behave healthily in the lower education group, and in terms of their impact on health in the higher education group. Other clusters appeared to be specific for particular groups, such as autonomy (intermediate/higher education group). Finally, ranking ranged from a higher ranking of the positively formulated aspects in the higher education group (eg, lust for life) to that of the negatively formulated aspects in the lower education group (eg, having no chronic disease).
Our results provide indications to suggest that people in lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to show a conceptualisation of health that refers to (1) the absence of health threats (vs positive aspects), (2) a person within his/her circumstances (vs quality of own body/mind), (3) the value of functional (vs hedonistic) notions and (4) an accepting (vs active) attitude towards life.
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