This report investigates differences in health status within and between European countries. The relationship between living conditions, socioeconomic factors and health is discussed and analysed with the objective of stimulating a debate and policy action for creating a healthier and more equitable society. While the goal to improve average levels of population health is important for any government, there has been an increasing focus on disparities at national and European levels. Improvements have been seen over the past few decades in both health status and living and working conditions in Europe. However, the level of heterogeneity in characteristics of living conditions has widened tremendously in the European Union and will continue to do so as it goes through the enlargement process.
The diversity in living conditions has translated into diversity in patterns of health across the region. Inequalities in income, education, housing and employment affect population health, both directly (for example, good housing reduces risks associated with poor health) and indirectly through psychosocial factors (such as stress)