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Life-course influences on health in British adults: effects of socio-economic position in childhood and adulthood

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kathryn Atherton, Dr UNKNOWN Gibb


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Background Little evidence exists on the role of socio-economic position (SEP) in early life on adult disease other than for cardiovascular mortality; data is often retrospective. We assess whether childhood SEP influences disease risk in mid-life, separately from the effect of adult position, and establish how associations vary across multiple measures of disease risk. Methods Prospective follow-up to adulthood of all born in England, Scotland and Wales during I week in 1958, and with medical data at age 45 years (n = 9377). Outcomes include: blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), glycosylated haemoglobin (HbAlc), total and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, fibrinogen, total immunoglobulin E (IgE), one-second forced expiratory volume (FEV1), hearing threshold (4 kHz), visual impairment, symptoms of depression and anxiety, chronic widespread pain. Results Social class in childhood was associated with blood pressure, BMI, HbAlc, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fibrinogen, FEV1, hearing threshold, depressive symptoms and chronic widespread pain, with a general trend of deteriorating health from class I to V. Adult social class was also associated with these measures. Mutually adjusted analyses of child and adult social class suggest that both contribute to disease risk in mid-life: in general, associations for childhood class were as strong as for adult class. Individuals with a manual class at both time-points tended to have the greatest health deficits in adulthood. Conclusions Adverse SEP in childhood is associated with a poorer health profile in midadulthood, independently of adult social position, and across diverse measures of disease risk and physical and mental functioning.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Power C, Atherton K, Strachan DP, Shepherd P, Fuller E, Davis A, Gibb I, Kumari M, Lowe G, Macfarlane GJ, Rahi J, Rodgerslo B, Stansfeld S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Epidemiology

Year: 2007

Volume: 36

Issue: 3

Pages: 532-539

ISSN (print): 0300-5771

ISSN (electronic): 1464-3685

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/ije/dy131O


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Funder referenceFunder name
G0000934Medical Research Council