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Causes of health and mortality inequalities in Belgium: multiple dimensions, multiple causes (Causineq)

This project aims to investigate the mechanisms by which social differences in mortality and health are generated. There is accumulating evidence of a negative association between socio-economic position and mortality in affluent societies. For Belgium also, several studies have confirmed a consistent pattern of differential mortality. Besides, the social gradient in mortality increased considerably between the 1990s and 2000s.

Insights in the mechanisms generating inequality will be acquired in this project by focusing on different dimensions of socio-economic position, their additive and interactive effects, and by undertaking a detailed analysis of mortality by cause of death. At a time of de-standardisation of individual life courses, we hypothesize that the widening of social inequalities in health and mortality is associated with the growing instability of professional careers and family trajectories.

The project is organised around four research questions, leading to four packages (WPs):

The project combines demographical, historical and sociological theories, data and methods to shed light on some societal causes of health and mortality inequalities in Belgium. At the societal level, social differences in health and mortality can be considered as one of the ‘hard ends’ for measuring the performance of a welfare state. Research conclusions on the link between work- and family-related factors and health and mortality are therefore highly relevant. The conclusions of our research project will provide a sound basis for policy measures in the domains of quality of work, labour market participation, welfare state and social security policy and living arrangements. Policy measures and preventive actions for identified vulnerable categories will be proposed and can be very useful at the federal, regional, local and even company level.

At the level of policy-making, as well as within the scientific community one is not always aware of the richness of existing data sources in Belgium. In compliance with the general aims of the BRAIN programme, the proposed project offers the opportunity to analyse four highly relevant and ‘under-studied’ databases with regard to the topic of social health variations. We expect to establish a long-term collaborative framework between the research partners, in order to take an important step in establishing a future research agenda in the field of social variations in health and mortality at the national level and put Belgium at the international forefront of this research domain.