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Original article

Vol. 153 No. 1 (2023)

The Swiss neighbourhood index of socioeconomic position: update and re-validation

  • Radoslaw Panczak
  • Claudia Berlin
  • Marieke Voorpostel
  • Marcel Zwahlen
  • Matthias Egger
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2023;153:40028


BACKGROUND: The widely used Swiss neighbourhood index of socioeconomic position (Swiss-SEP 1) was based on data from the 2000 national census on rent, household head education and occupation, and crowding. It may now be out of date.

METHODS: We created a new index (Swiss-SEP 2) based on the 2012–2015 yearly micro censuses that have replaced the decennial house-to-house census in Switzerland since 2010. We used principal component analysis on neighbourhood-aggregated variables and standardised the index. We also created a hybrid version (Swiss-SEP 3), with updated values for neighbourhoods centred on buildings constructed after the year 2000 and original values for the remaining neighbourhoods.

RESULTS: A total of 1.54 million neighbourhoods were included. With all three indices, the mean yearly equivalised household income increased from around 52,000 to 90,000 CHF from the lowest to the highest index decile. Analyses of mortality were based on 33.6 million person-years of follow-up. The age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratios of all-cause mortality comparing areas in the lowest Swiss-SEP decile with areas of the highest decile were 1.39 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.36–1.41), 1.31 (1.29–1.33) and 1.34 (1.32–1.37) using the old, new and hybrid indices, respectively.

DISCUSSION: The Swiss-SEP indices capture area-based SEP at a high resolution and allow the study of SEP when individual-level SEP data are missing or area-level effects are of interest. The hybrid version (Swiss-SEP 3) maintains high spatial resolution while adding information on new neighbourhoods. The index will continue to be useful for Switzerland’s epidemiological and public health research.


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