Socioeconomic inequalities in health risk factors in Korea

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Tackling socioeconomic inequalities in health risk factors is an important pathway for alleviating health inequalities. The aim of this study was to analyze the current state of inequality in health risk factors by socioeconomic status in Korea through a literature review of recently published studies and description of secondary data from the Korea National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (KNHANES). We evaluated the extent and trends of socioeconomic inequalities in health behavior (smoking, high-risk alcohol drinking, moderate exercise, and nutritional deficiency) and clinical risk factors (hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity) with 1998 to 2010 KNHANES data based on socio-economic status. Furthermore, we summarized the impact of several distal health determinants like income, education and occupation, and childhood period on health inequalities in Korea. The results showed that a wide range of health risk factors including more distal causes were socio-econo-mically patterned to varying degrees. In order to reduce health inequalities by socioeconomic status, more comprehensive monitoring and measures, and well-designed studies are required for promoting the understanding of the causal pathway and developing interventional strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Korean Medical Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Health behavior
  • Risk factors
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • Socioeconomic inequality


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