Cardiovascular risk factors-using repeated cross-sectional surveys to assess time trends in socioeconomic inequalities in neighbouring countries.

OBJECTIVES: This study compares trends in socioeconomic inequalities related to key cardiovascular risk factors in neighbouring countries Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (RoI).

DESIGN: Repeated cross-sectional studies.

SETTING: Population based.

PARTICIPANTS: 3500-4000 in national surveys in NI and 5000-9000 in RoI, aged 20-69 years.

MEASURES: Educational attainment was used as a socioeconomic indicator by which the magnitude and direction of trends in inequalities for smoking, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity in NI and RoI were examined between 1997/1998 and 2007/2011. Gender-specific relative and absolute inequalities were calculated using the Relative Index of Inequality (RII) and Slope Index of Inequality (SII) for both countries.

RESULTS: In both countries, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity increased whereas levels of smoking and physical inactivity decreased over time. In NI relative inequalities increased for obesity (RII 1.1 in males and 2.1 in females in 2010/2011) and smoking (RII 4.5 in males and 4.2 in females in 2010/2011) for both genders and absolute inequalities increased for all risk factors in men and increased for diabetes and obesity in women. In RoI greater inequality was observed in women, particularly for smoking (RII 2.8 in 2007) and obesity (RII 8.2 in 2002) and in men for diabetes (RII 3.2 in 2002).

CONCLUSIONS: Interventions to reduce inequalities in risk factors, particularly smoking, obesity and diabetes are encouraged across both countries.