Housing wealth and mortality: A register linkage study of the Finnish population.Soc Sci Med. 2009 Sep; 69(5):754-60.SS
In many countries home ownership is the main form of property and covers a major part of people's possessions. Since overall wealth is difficult to measure, many health studies have used home ownership as an indicator of wealth and material resources. However, most studies have measured housing wealth with a simple dichotomous measure of home ownership. We examined the associations between three different measures of housing wealth and overall mortality, separating subsidized renters and private renters, and using floor area and the number of rooms as measures of dwelling size. We further examined whether other socioeconomic factors, level of urbanisation of the region of residence, and household composition account for the found associations. Finns aged 35-79 years at the end of 1999 were followed up until the end of 2004. Data were drawn from various registers combined by Statistics Finland and linked with death records. The age-adjusted hazard ratio for mortality among subsidized renters compared to owner-occupiers was 2.26 in men and 1.87 in women. However, also private renters had clearly higher mortality than owner-occupiers, with the excess mortality of 92% in men and 61% in women. Both measures of home size were also strongly associated with mortality, with the excess risk of 1.7-3.0 in the lowest home size quintile compared to the highest. Adjusting for socioeconomic factors and mutually for all housing wealth measures considerably attenuated the associations. Further adjustment for urbanisation had no effect whereas adjustment for household size, marital status and living arrangements attenuated the associations of the two home size measures and mortality. However, a clear association remained between all housing wealth measures and mortality after all adjustments. Housing wealth summarises one's material circumstances over a prolonged period of time. Measures of housing wealth may therefore provide useful social classifications for studies on poor health and mortality especially in older age groups where most deaths occur.