, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 1-3
Date: 03 Sep 2009

Research on social determinants and health: what sorts of data do we need?

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Studies dealing with the relationship between social determinants and health are usually conducted by means of surveys. Data on outcomes are assessed on an individual basis, e.g. subjective health or subjective well-being, and they are mostly cross-sectional. Although there are significant exceptions, this holds for the majority of studies. Depending on the research question it may be appropriate to choose cross-sectional designs, it may also make sense to do so if it is only second best, because having approximate solutions are better than having none at all. There are, however, good reasons to deviate from this tradition. So what sorts of data are needed?

Research on social determinants should no longer build on one sort of data only. Instead, data from different sources should be used in order to reduce sources of bias and to improve validity of the conclusions. Recent technical developments are increasingly permitting to integrate different types of information. This refers to micro ...

Siegfried Geyer is director of the Medical Sociology Unit at Hannover Medical School. He was president of the European Society of Health and Medical Sociology. His research interests are focussed on the role of social factors in the aetiology and course of diseases, in particular in the field of health inequalities.