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Socioeconomic position across life and body composition in early old age: Findings from a british birth cohort study

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel CooperORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background: Previous studies have reported associations between lower lifetime socioeconomic position (SEP) and higher body mass index in adulthood, but few have examined associations with direct measures of fat and lean mass which are likely to have independent roles in health and physical functioning. Methods: We examined associations of SEP across life with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry measures of fat and lean mass at 60-64 years using data from a total of 1558 men and women participating in the Medical Research Council (MRC) National Survey of Health and Development. We also examined whether associations of childhood SEP with fat and lean mass were explained by preadulthood weight gain (birth weight, 0-7 and 7-20 years) and adult SEP. Results: Lower SEP across life was associated with higher fat mass and higher android to gynoid fat mass ratio. For example, the mean difference in fat mass index comparing the lowest with the highest paternal occupational class at 4 years (slope index of inequality)was 1.04 kg/m1.2 in men (95% CI 0.09 to 1.99) and 2.61 in women (1.34 to 3.89), equivalent to a 8.6% and 16.1% difference, respectively. After adjustment for fat mass, lower SEP across life was associated with lower lean mass in women, while only contemporaneous household income was associated in men. Associations between childhood SEP and outcomes were partly explained by preadulthood weight gain and adult SEP. Conclusions: This study identified lifetime socioeconomic patterning of fat and lean mass in earlyold age. This is likely to have important implications and may partly explain socioeconomic inequalities in health and physical functioning.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bann D, Cooper R, Wills AK, Adams J, Kuh D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Year: 2014

Volume: 68

Issue: 6

Pages: 516-523

Print publication date: 01/06/2014

Online publication date: 24/02/2014

Acceptance date: 01/02/2014

Date deposited: 17/01/2022

ISSN (print): 0143-005X

ISSN (electronic): 1470-2738

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/jech-2013-203373

PubMed id: 24567442


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