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Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2009 Apr;16(2):169-73. doi: 10.1097/HJR.0b013e328325d64d.

Influence of area and individual lifecourse deprivation on health behaviours: findings from the British Women's Heart and Health Study.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK.



Variable findings have been reported on the contribution of census-based measures of area deprivation over and above that of individual socioeconomic position (SEP) on health outcomes. This study aims to examine the association between residence in a deprived area and health behaviours (diet, smoking and physical inactivity), and how this association is influenced by lifecourse SEP of individuals.


A population-based longitudinal study of women aged 60-79 years in 1999-2001 recruited from one general practice in each of 23 British towns.


Three thousand five hundred twenty-two women were included in the analyses. Area deprivation scores were derived from postcode for residence and lifecourse SEP scores were calculated using 10 individual level indicators of childhood and adult circumstances. To allow direct comparisons of effect of area deprivation and individual SEP, we standardized both measures by generating relative indices of inequality.


Both area deprivation and lifecourse SEP were independent predictors of eating fruit and vegetables [odds ratio (OR): 2.87, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.22-3.72; comparing highest with lowest area Index of Multiple Deprivation of inequality (OR: 3.07, 95% CI: 2.33-4.06) for lifecourse SEP index of inequality] and exercise habits (OR: 2.39, 95% CI: 1.86-3.06 area deprivation; OR: 2.7, 95% CI: 2.07-3.51 individual SEP). Area deprivation was a stronger predictor of smoking behaviour (OR: 2.34, 95% CI: 1.91-3.08) than individual lifecourse SEP (OR: 1.51, 95% CI: 1.17-1.95).


Most health behaviours among older women were independently associated with both living in deprived areas and individual lifecourse SEP. This suggests that additional health promotion approaches focusing on improving environments would have potential to improve health behaviour.

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