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Public awareness of poverty as a determinant of health: survey results from 23 countries



We aim to examine (1) variations in the public awareness of poverty as a determinant of health and (2) associations of individual and macro level factors with awareness.


Analyses are based on the International Social Survey Programme. Data stem from 23 countries (N = 37,228) that were assigned to six welfare states. Sociodemographic, socio-economic, and health-related factors were considered as individual level characteristics. Gross domestic product, relative poverty rate, Gini coefficient, and magnitude of health inequalities were additionally introduced as macro level factors.


About 47% of the respondents in all countries agreed with the statement that people suffer from severe health problems because they are poor (range 30–77%). Multilevel analyses reveal that awareness was least pronounced in Liberal, East European, and East Asian welfare regimes. Moreover, women, older adults, respondents with low education and income, as well as poor health were more likely to show awareness.


There is a need to raise public awareness of the adverse health effects of poverty as the public opinion can be an important driver of political will on health and social issues.

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Correspondence to Olaf von dem Knesebeck.

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The authors received no external funding for this project.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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von dem Knesebeck, O., Vonneilich, N. & Kim, T.J. Public awareness of poverty as a determinant of health: survey results from 23 countries. Int J Public Health 63, 165–172 (2018).

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  • Public awareness
  • Poverty
  • Social determinants of health
  • International Social Survey Programme