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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

International Journal for Equity in Health 1/2018

A fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis of 131 countries: which configuration of the structural conditions can explain health better?

International Journal for Equity in Health > Ausgabe 1/2018
Toktam Paykani, Hassan Rafiey, Homeira Sajjadi
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12939-018-0724-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization Commission On Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) for intersectoral action on health, the well-being of and equity in health within a population are achieved via a complex fusion of policies and actions. In this study, following the CSDH’s approach and considering set-theoretic relations, we aimed to unravel this complexity and answer the kinds of questions that are outside the scope of conventional variable-oriented approach.


A fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis of 131 countries was conducted to examine the configurational effects of five macro-level structural conditions on life expectancy at birth. The potential causal conditions were level of country wealth, income inequality, quality of governance, education, and health system. The data collected from different international data sources were recorded during 2004–2015.


The intermediate solution of the truth table analysis indicated a configuration of conditions including high level of governance, education, wealth, and affluent health system to be consistently sufficient for high life expectancy. On the other hand, four configurations, each containing two or three conditions, were consistent with being usually sufficient to cause low life expectancy.


We were able to configurationally explore the cases and specify the combinations of potentially causal conditions which were usually sufficient to explain high or low life expectancy in different countries. As a result, particular cases were identified for further research. In addition, research may provide support for the CSDH’s recommendations emphasizing the importance of intersectoral action for health.
Additional file 1: Raw Data. (DOCX 66 kb)
Additional file 2: Interval-scales and indicators. (DOCX 37 kb)
Additional file 3: Fuzzy-set scores (Original calibration). (DOCX 61 kb)
Additional file 4: fsQCA Complex and Parsimonious solutions. (DOCX 40 kb)
Additional file 5: Sensitivity analysis. (DOCX 71 kb)
Additional file 6: Distribution of cases across combinations of causal conditions (Contradictory cases are shown in bold text). (DOCX 22 kb)
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