Advertisement

Demography

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 1631–1656 | Cite as

A Social History of Disease: Contextualizing the Rise and Fall of Social Inequalities in Cause-Specific Mortality

  • Sean A. P. CloustonEmail author
  • Marcie S. Rubin
  • Jo C. Phelan
  • Bruce G. Link
Article

Abstract

Fundamental cause theory posits that social inequalities in health arise because of unequal access to flexible resources, including knowledge, money, power, prestige, and beneficial social connections, which allow people to avoid risk factors and adopt protective factors relevant in a particular place. In this study, we posit that diseases should also be put into temporal context. We characterize diseases as transitioning through four stages at a given time: (1) natural mortality, characterized by no knowledge about risk factors, preventions, or treatments for a disease in a population; (2) producing inequalities, characterized by unequal diffusion of innovations; (3) reducing inequalities, characterized by increased access to health knowledge; and (4) reduced mortality/disease elimination, characterized by widely available prevention and effective treatment. For illustration, we pair an ideal-types analysis with mortality data to explore hypothesized incidence rates of diseases. Although social inequalities exist in incidence rates of many diseases, the cause, extent, and direction of inequalities change systematically in relation to human intervention. This article highlights opportunities for further development, specifically highlighting the role of stage duration in maintaining social inequalities in cause-specific mortality.

Keywords

Fundamental causes Social inequalities Cause-specific mortality Informational diffusion Mortality trends 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its financial support of this article through Public Health Dissertation Research funding (Grant R36SH000004). The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

References

  1. Abraham, E. P., Chain, E., Fletcher, C. M., Gardner, A. D., Heatley, N. G., Jennings, M. A., & Florey, H. W. (1941). Further observations on penicillin. Lancet, 238, 177–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alberg, A. J., & Samet, J. M. (2003). Epidemiology of lung cancer. Chest, 123(1 Suppl.), 21S–49S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, C. A., Metz, L. M., Svenson, L. W., & Patten, S. B. (2005). Regional variation of multiple sclerosis prevalence in Canada. Multiple Sclerosis, 11, 516–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Becker, G. S. (1960). An economic analysis of fertility. In National Bureau of Economic Research (Ed.), Demographic and economic change in developed countries (pp. 209–240). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  5. BMJ. (2010). Kidney infection: What treatments work? In Guardian. Manchester, UK: British Medical Journal Publishing Group. Retrieved from http://besttreatments.bmj.com/btuk/about/12.html
  6. Briggs, A. (1961). Cholera and society in the nineteenth century. Past & Present, 19, 76–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caldwell, J. C. (1976). Toward a restatement of demographic transition theory. Population and Development Review, 2, 321–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caldwell, J. C. (2001). Population health in transition. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 79, 159–160.Google Scholar
  9. Carbone, J. C., Kverndokk, S., & Røgeberg, O. J. (2005). Smoking, health, risk, and perception. Journal of Health Economics, 24, 631–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chang, V. W., & Lauderdale, D. S. (2009). Fundamental cause theory, technological innovation, and health disparities: The case of cholesterol in the era of statins. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50, 245–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chesnais, J.-C. (1992). The demographic transition: Stages, patterns and economic implications. A longitudinal study of sixty-seven countries covering the period 1720–1984 (E. Kreager & P. Kreager, Trans.). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. (Original work published 1986)Google Scholar
  12. Clark, S. (2004). Early marriage and HIV risks in sub-Saharan Africa. Studies in Family Planning, 35, 149–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clark, S., Bruce, J., & Dude, A. (2006). Protecting young women from HIV/AIDS: The case against child and adolescent marriage. International Family Planning Perspectives, 32, 79–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clouston, S., Richards, M., Cadar, D., & Hofer, S. (2015). Educational inequalities in health behaviors at midlife: Is there a role for early-life cognition? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 56, 323–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clouston, S., Rubin, M., Colen, C., & Link, B. G. (2014). Social inequalities in suicide: The role of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. American Journal of Epidemiology, 180, 696–704. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu191
  16. Cockerham, W. C. (1997). The social determinants of the decline of life expectancy in Russia and Eastern Europe: A lifestyle explanation. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38, 117–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cockerham, W. C. (2005). Health lifestyle theory and the convergence of agency and structure. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46, 51–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cockerham, W. C. (2007). Social causes of health and disease. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  19. Colgrove, J. (2006). The ethics and politics of compulsory HPV vaccination. New England Journal of Medicine, 355, 2389–2391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dannefer, D. (2003). Cumulative advantage/disadvantage and the life course: Cross-fertilizing age and social science theory. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58, S327–S337.Google Scholar
  21. de Silva-Sanigorski, A. M., Bell, A. C., Kremer, P., Nichols, M., Crellin, M., Smith, M., . . . Boak, R. (2010). Reducing obesity in early childhood: Results from Romp & Chomp, an Australian community-wide intervention program. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91, 831–840.Google Scholar
  22. Doll, R., & Hill, A. B. (1956). Lung cancer and other causes of death in relation to smoking. British Medical Journal, 2(5001), 1071--1081.Google Scholar
  23. Doria-Rose, V. P., & Marcus, P. M. (2009). Death certificates provide an adequate source of cause of death information when evaluating lung cancer mortality: An example from the Mayo Lung Project. Lung Cancer, 63, 295–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dowdle, W. R. (1998). The principles of disease elimination and eradication. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 76(Suppl. 2), 22–25.Google Scholar
  25. Durrheim, D. N., & Speare, R. (2003). Global leprosy elimination: Time to change more than the elimination target date. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 316–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Economos, C. D., Hyatt, R. R., Goldberg, J. P., Must, A., Naumova, E. N., Collins, J. J., & Nelson, M. E. (2007). A community intervention reduces BMI z-score in children: Shape up Somerville first year results. Obesity, 15, 1325–1336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Edwards, B. K., Noone, A. M., Mariotto, A. B., Simard, E. P., Boscoe, F. P., Henley, S. J.,  . . . Kohler, B. A. (2014). Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975–2010, featuring prevalence of comorbidity and impact on survival among persons with lung, colorectal, breast, or prostate cancer. Cancer, 120, 1290–1314.Google Scholar
  28. Edwards, B. K., Ward, E., Kohler, B., Eheman, C., Zauber, A. G., Lansdorp-Vogelaar, I., . . . Ries, L. A. G. (2010). Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975–2006, featuring colorectal cancer trends and impact of interventions (risk factors, screening, and treatment) to reduce future rates. Cancer, 116, 544–573.Google Scholar
  29. Farmer, P. (2003). Pathologies of power: Health, human rights, and the new war on the poor. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  30. Fogel, R. W. (1994). Economic growth, population theory, and physiology: The bearing of long-term processes on the making of economic policy (NBER Working Paper No. 4638). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  31. Forman, D., Newell, D. G., Fullerton, F., Yarnell, J. W., Stacey, A. R., Wald, N., & Sitas, F. (1991). Association between infection with Helicobacter pylori and risk of gastric cancer: Evidence from a prospective investigation. British Medical Journal, 302, 1302–1305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fraile, M. (2011). Widening or reducing the knowledge gap? Testing the media effects on political knowledge in Spain (2004–2006). International Journal of Press/Politics, 16, 163–184.Google Scholar
  33. Freese, J., & Lutfey, K. (2011). Fundamental causality: Challenges of an animating concept for medical sociology. In B. A. Pescosolido, J. K. Martin, J. D. McLeod, & A. Rogers (Eds.), Handbook of the sociology of health, illness, and healing (pp. 67–81). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gardner, W., Mulvey, E. P., & Shaw, E. C. (1995). Regression analyses of counts and rates: Poisson, overdispersed Poisson, and negative binomial models. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 392–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ge, D., Fellay, J., Thompson, A. J., Simon, J. S., Shianna, K. V., Urban, T. J., . . . Muir, A. J. (2009). Genetic variation in IL28B predicts hepatitis C treatment-induced viral clearance. Nature, 461, 399–401.Google Scholar
  36. German, R. R., Fink, A. K., Heron, M., Stewart, S. L., Johnson, C. J., Finch, J. L., & Yin, D. (2011). The accuracy of cancer mortality statistics based on death certificates in the United States. Cancer Epidemiology, 35, 126–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gorey, K. M., Luginaah, I. N., Bartfay, E., Fung, K. Y., Holowaty, E. J., Wright, F. C., . . . Kanjeekal, S. M. (2010). Effects of socioeconomic status on colon cancer treatment accessibility and survival in Toronto, Ontario, and San Francisco, California, 1996–2006. American Journal of Public Health, 101, 112–119.Google Scholar
  38. Gorey, K. M., Luginaah, I. N., Bartfay, E., Fung, K. Y., Holowaty, E. J., Wright, F. C., . . . Kanjeekal, S. M. (2011). Effects of socioeconomic status on colon cancer treatment accessibility and survival in Toronto, Ontario, and San Francisco, California, 1996–2006. American Journal of Public Health, 101, 112–119.Google Scholar
  39. Hawk, E. T., & Levin, B. (2005). Colorectal cancer prevention. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 23, 378–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Henderson, D. A. (1976). The eradication of smallpox. Scientific American, 235, 25--33.Google Scholar
  41. Hindman, D. B., & Yan, C. (2015). The knowledge gap versus the belief gap and abstinence-only sex education. Journal of Health Communication, 20, 949–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ho, J. Y., & Preston, S. H. (2010). US mortality in an international context: Age variations. Population and Development Review, 36, 749–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Honjo, K., Tsutsumi, A., Kawachi, I., & Kawakami, N. (2006). What accounts for the relationship between social class and smoking cessation? Results of a path analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 62, 317–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Huang, J.-Q., Sridhar, S., Chen, Y., & Hunt, R. H. (1998). Meta-analysis of the relationship between Helicobacter pylori seropositivity and gastric cancer. Gastroenterology, 114, 1169–1179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Huisman, M., Kunst, A. E., & Mackenbach, J. P. (2005). Educational inequalities in smoking among men and women aged 16 years and older in 11 European countries. Tobacco Control, 14, 106–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hwang, Y., & Jeong, S.-H. (2009). Revisiting the knowledge gap hypothesis: A meta-analysis of thirty-five years of research. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 86, 513–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Jemal, A., Murray, T., Ward, E., Samuels, A., Tiwari, R. C., Ghafoor, A., . . . Thun, M. J. (2005). Cancer Statistics, 2005. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 55(1), 10–30.Google Scholar
  48. Kirk, D. (1996). Demographic transition theory. Population Studies, 50(3), 361–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Krieger, N., Chen, J. T., Kosheleva, A., & Waterman, P. D. (2012). Shrinking, widening, reversing, and stagnating trends in US socioeconomic inequities in cancer mortality for the total, black, and white populations: 1960–2006. Cancer Causes and Control, 23, 297–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kuandykov, L., & Sokolov, M. (2010). Impact of social neighborhood on diffusion of innovation S-curve. Decision Support Systems, 48, 531–535. doi: 10.1016/j.dss.2009.11.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kuh, D., & Ben Shlomo, Y. (2004). Socioeconomic pathways between childhood and adult health. In D. Kuh, Y. Ben Shlomo, & E. Susser (Eds.), A life course approach to chronic disease epidemiology (pp. 371–395). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Link, B. G. (2008). Epidemiological sociology and the social shaping of population health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49, 367–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Link, B. G., & Phelan, J. C. (1995). Social conditions as fundamental causes of disease. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 35(Extra Issue), 80–94.Google Scholar
  54. Link, B. G., Northridge, M. E., Phelan, J. C., & Ganz, M. L. (1998). Social epidemiology and the fundamental cause concept: On the structuring of effective cancer screens by socioeconomic status. Milbank Quarterly, 76, 375–402.Google Scholar
  55. Link, B. G., & Phelan, J. (2010). Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities. In C. E. Bird, P. Conrad, A. M. Fremont, & S. Timmermans (Eds.), Handbook of medical sociology (pp. 3–17). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Liu, K.-Y., King, M., & Bearman, P. S. (2010). Social influence and the autism epidemic. American Journal of Sociology, 115, 1387–1434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. López-Pintado, D. (2008). Diffusion in complex social networks. Games and Economic Behavior, 62, 573–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lutfey, K., & Freese, J. (2005). Toward some fundamentals of fundamental causality: Socioeconomic status and health in the routine clinic visit for diabetes. American Journal of Sociology, 110, 1326–1372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Marmot, M. (2004). The status syndrome: How social standing affects our health and longevity. New York, NY: Times Books.Google Scholar
  60. Masters, R. K., Hummer, R. A., & Powers, D. A. (2012). Educational differences in U.S. adult mortality. American Sociological Review, 77, 548–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. McKeown, T. (1976). The modern rise of population. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  62. Meara, E. R., Richards, S., & Cutler, D. M. (2008). The gap gets bigger: Changes in mortality and life expectancy, by education, 1981–2000. Health Affairs, 27, 350–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Miech, R. (2008). The formation of a socioeconomic health disparity: The case of cocaine use during the 1980s and 1990s. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49, 352–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Miech, R., Pampel, F., Kim, J., & Rogers, R. (2011). The enduring association between education and the role of widening and narrowing disparities. American Sociological Review, 76, 913–934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Miller, A., Cohen, B., Cohen, J., Ford, C., Goodin, D., Goodman, A., . . . Wolinsky, J. (2007). Disease management consensus statement. New York, NY: National Multiple Sclerosis Society.Google Scholar
  66. Mueller, D. (2010). Thymic tumors. eMedicine: WebMD Health Professional Network. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/427197-overview
  67. National Cancer Institute (NCI). (2010). Colon and rectal cancer. Bethesda, MD: NCI. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/colon-and-rectal
  68. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). (2012). Compressed mortality file 1968–2009 [Machine readable data file and documentation, CD-ROM Series 20, Versions 2a, 2e, 2n] (Compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program). Hyattsville, MD: NCHS.Google Scholar
  69. National Health Service (NHS). (2012). HPV Vaccine. NHS Choices. London, UK: NHS. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/hpv-human-papillomavirus-vaccine.aspx
  70. Öberg, M., Jaakkola, M. S., Woodward, A., Peruga, A., & Prüss-Ustün, A. (2011). Worldwide burden of disease from exposure to second-hand smoke: A retrospective analysis of data from 192 countries. Lancet, 377, 139–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Omran, A. R. (1971). The epidemiologic transition: A theory of the epidemiology of population change. Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, 49, 509–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Pappas, G., Queen, S., Hadden, W., & Fisher, G. (1993). The increasing disparity in mortality between socioeconomic groups in the United States, 1960 and 1986. New England Journal of Medicine, 329, 103–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Parikh, S., Brennan, P., & Boffetta, P. (2003). Meta-analysis of social inequality and the risk of cervical cancer. International Journal of Cancer, 105, 687–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Phelan, J. C., & Link, B. G. (2005). Controlling disease and creating disparities: A fundamental cause perspective. Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 60(Special Issue 2), S27–S33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Phelan, J. C., & Link, B. G. (2013). Fundamental cause theory. In W. C. Cockerham (Ed.), Medical sociology on the move (pp. 105–125). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Phelan, J. C., Link, B. G., Diez-Roux, A. V., Kawachi, I., & Levin, B. (2004). “Fundamental causes” of social inequalities in mortality: A test of the theory. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45, 265–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Phelan, J. C., Link, B. G., & Tehranifar, P. (2010). Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities: Theory, evidence, and policy implications. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(Suppl.), S28–S40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Pickett, K. E., & Wilkinson, R. G. (2015). Income inequality and health: A causal review. Social Science & Medicine, 128, 316–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Polonijo, A. N., & Carpiano, R. M. (2013). Social inequalities in adolescent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination: A test of fundamental cause theory. Social Science & Medicine, 82, 115–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Preston, S. H., & Wang, H. (2006). Sex mortality differences in the United States: The role of cohort smoking patterns. Demography, 43, 631–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Rosati, G. (2001). The prevalence of multiple sclerosis in the world: An update. Neurological Sciences, 22, 117–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Rubin, M. S., Colen, C. G., & Link, B. G. (2010). Examination of inequalities in HIV/AIDS mortality in the United States from a fundamental cause perspective. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 1053–1059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Rubin, M. S., Clouston, S., & Link, B. G. (2014). A fundamental cause approach to the study of disparities in lung cancer and pancreatic cancer mortality in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 100, 54–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Saldana-Ruiz, N., Clouston, S., Rubin, M., Colen, C., & Link, B. G. (2013). Fundamental causes of age-adjusted colorectal cancer mortality: Understanding the importance of socioeconomic status and race in creating inequality in mortality. American Journal of Public Health, 103, 99–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Shah, S. (2010). The fever: How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years. New York, NY: Picador.Google Scholar
  86. Singh, G. K., Miller, B. A., & Hankey, B. F. (2002). Changing area socioeconomic patterns in U.S. cancer mortality, 1950–1998: Part II—Lung and colorectal cancers. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 94, 916–925.Google Scholar
  87. Snow, J. (1849). On the pathology and mode of communication of cholera. London Medical Gazette, 44, 745–752.Google Scholar
  88. Stenseth, N. C., Atshabar, B. B., Begon, M., Belmain, S. R., Bertherat, E., Carniel, E., . . . Rahalison, L. (2008). Plague: Past, present, and future. PLoS Medicine, 5(1), e3. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050003
  89. Stevens, G., Dias, R. H., Thomas, K. J. A., Rivera, J. A., Carvalho, N., Barquera, S., . . . Ezzati, M. (2008). Characterizing the epidemiological transition in Mexico: National and subnational burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. PLoS Medicine, 5(6), e125. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050125
  90. Trevelyan, B., Smallman-Raynor, M., & Cliff, A. D. (2005). The spatial structure of epidemic emergence: Geographical aspects of poliomyelitis in north-eastern USA, July–October 1916. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 168, 701–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Turner, E. L., & Hanley, J. A. (2010). Cultural imagery and statistical models of the force of mortality: Addison, Gompertz and Pearson. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 173, 483–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Wang, A., Clouston, S., Rubin, M., Colen, C., & Link, B. G. (2012). Fundamental causes of colorectal cancer mortality: The implications of informational diffusion. Milbank Quarterly, 90, 592–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. White, K., Haas, J. S., & Williams, D. R. (2012). Elucidating the role of place in health care disparities: The example of racial/ethnic residential segregation. Health Services Research, 47, 1278–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Wolff, W. I. (1989). Colonoscopy: History and development. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 84, 1017–1025.Google Scholar
  95. Wright, C. D. (2008). Management of thymomas. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology, 65, 109–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean A. P. Clouston
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marcie S. Rubin
    • 2
  • Jo C. Phelan
    • 3
  • Bruce G. Link
    • 4
  1. 1.Program in Public Health and Department of Family, Population and Preventive MedicineStony Brook University, Health Sciences CenterStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.Section of Social and Behavioral Sciences, College of Dental MedicineColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Sociology, and School of Public PolicyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

Personalised recommendations