Socioeconomic determinants of disability in Chile

Pedro Zitko Melo, M.D., M.Sc., Báltica Cabieses Valdes, M.Sc.

Disability and Health Journal
Volume 4, Issue 4, Pages 271–282, October 2011




Disability is a worldwide public health priority. A shift from a biomedical perspective of dysfunction to a broader social understanding of disability has been proposed. Among many different social factors described in the past, socioeconomic position remains as a key multidimensional determinant of health. The study goal was to analyze the relationship between disability and different domains of socioeconomic position in Chile.


Cross-sectional analysis of an anonymized population-based survey conducted in Chile in 2006. Any disability (dichotomous variable) and 6 different types of disability were analyzed on the bases of their relationship with income quintiles, occupational status, educational level, and material living standards (quality of the housing, overcrowding rate and sanitary conditions). Confounding and interaction effects were explored using R statistical program.


Income, education, occupation, and material measures of socioeconomic position, along with some sociodemographic characteristics of the population, were independently associated with the chance of being disabled in Chile. Interestingly, classic measures of socioeconomic position (income, education, and occupation) were consistently associated with any disability in Chile, whereas material living conditions were partially confounded by these classic measures. In addition to this, each type of disability showed a particular pattern of related social determinants, which also varied by age group.


This study contributed to the understanding of disability in Chile and how different domains of socioeconomic position might be associated with this prevalent condition. Disability remains a complex multidimensional public health problem in Chile that requires the inclusion of a wide range of risk factors, of which socioeconomic position is particularly relevant.