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Study: Wealthy patients more likely to survive heart attacks

An analysis by the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) shows that wealthier patients in Finland are more likely to survive a heart attack than their less prosperous peers. The review of data found lifestyle and living conditions to be the biggest factors contributing to the disparity.

Sydämen rasituskoe Kannuksen terveyskeskuksessa
Image: YLE / Kalle Niskala

According to the THL’s findings specialist health care practices do not explain why wealthy patients are more likely to survive a heart attack than underprivileged individuals.

After reviewing data collected during a four-year research project by the European Health Care Outcomes, Performance and Efficiency study (EuroHOPE), the THL determined that lifestyle and living conditions made the difference in how patients recovered from heart attacks.

A previous study found that in one year mortality among heart attack patients in Finland was five percentage points higher than among Norwegian patients.

Bigger gap than in Norway

The newly-released research opened up the data further by categorising patients on the basis of their income levels. It found that mortality among affluent Finnish patients was 10 percentage points lower than among underprivileged groups. In Norway the difference was seven percentage points.

When researchers looked even more closely at the disparity in mortality, they found that well-to-do and highly-educated patients were more likely to get angioplasty procedures within two days of arriving at hospital. However this accounted for only one-tenth of the income differences between groups.

The data showed instead that patients’ standard of living, living conditions and other risk factors played a greater role than care practices.

The study collected data on all heart attacks that occurred in Finland and Norway in 2009. The analysis also took into account other factors such as education level, age, related or additional medical conditions and patients’ distance from hospital.

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