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Free Content Low socio-economic status is a risk factor for respiratory symptoms: a comparison between Finland, Sweden and Estonia

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OBJECTIVE: To assess the relation of socio-economic status to respiratory symptoms common in asthma and chronic bronchitis, and to compare risk factors for these symptoms between three neighbouring countries.

DESIGN: A postal survey was performed in 1996 as a part of comparative studies in Finland, Sweden and Estonia (the FinEsS studies). A random sample of 58661 subjects aged 20–64 years were invited, of whom 44483 participated.

RESULTS: Respiratory symptoms were most prevalent among manual workers, who were at significantly increased risk for chronic respiratory symptoms. The same pattern of increased risk appeared when the analyses were made among non-smokers only: for recurrent wheeze, manual workers in industry yielded an OR of 1.91 (95%CI 1.62–2.24) and in the service sector an OR of 1.50 (95%CI 1.27–1.78). The corresponding figures for chronic productive cough were 1.45 (95%CI 1.22–1.71) and 1.20 (95%CI 1.02–1.42), respectively. Risk factor profiles for respiratory symptoms were similar in Finland, Sweden and Estonia, except for gender differences in Estonia.

CONCLUSIONS: Belonging to the socio-economic group of manual workers correlated with an increased risk for chronic respiratory symptoms, independently of smoking habits, in each country. Women manual workers in industry suffered most from respiratory symptoms.
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Keywords: asthma; chronic bronchitis; socio-economic status

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Medicine/Respiratory Diseases, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland 2: Lung and Allergy Research, Karolinska Institut, Stockholm, Sweden 3: Institute of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, Tallinn, Estonia 4: Laboratory Department, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: 2004-11-01

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