Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Soc Sci Med. 2011 Jan;72(2):307-15. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.11.004. Epub 2010 Nov 23.

Do biological measures mediate the relationship between education and health: A comparative study.

Author information

  • 1Office of Population Research, Princeton University, 243 Wallace Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


Despite a myriad of studies examining the relationship between socioeconomic status and health outcomes, few have assessed the extent to which biological markers of chronic disease account for social disparities in health. Studies that have examined this issue have generally been based on surveys in wealthy countries that include a small set of clinical markers of cardiovascular disease. The availability of recent data from nationally representative surveys of older adults in Costa Rica and Taiwan that collected a rich set of biomarkers comparable to those in a recent US survey permits us to explore these associations across diverse populations. Similar regression models were estimated on three data sets - the Social Environment and Biomarkers of Aging Study in Taiwan, the Costa Rican Study on Longevity and Healthy Aging, and the Health and Retirement Study in the USA - in order to assess (1) the strength of the associations between educational attainment and a broad range of biomarkers; and (2) the extent to which these biomarkers account for the relationships between education and two measures of health status (self-rated health, functional limitations) in older populations. The estimates suggest non-systematic and weak associations between education and high risk biomarker values in Taiwan and Costa Rica, in contrast to generally negative and significant associations in the US, especially among women. The results also reveal negligible or modest contributions of the biomarkers to educational disparities in the health outcomes. The findings are generally consistent with previous research suggesting stronger associations between socioeconomic status and health in wealthy countries than in middle-income countries and may reflect higher levels of social stratification in the US. With access to an increasing number of longitudinal biosocial surveys, researchers may be better able to distinguish true variations in the relationship between socioeconomic status and health across different settings from methodological differences.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk