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Am J Public Health. 1998 Sep;88(9):1319-24.

Atopy in children and parental social class.

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  • 1GSF Research Center for Environment and Health, Institute of Epidemiology, Neuherberg, Oberschleissheim, Germany.



This analysis was conducted to determine whether atopic disorders were related to social class in a pediatric population of a former socialist country.


A cross-sectional study of 2471 schoolchildren was carried out in 1992 and 1993 in 3 towns in the former East Germany. Parents completed a standardized questionnaire regarding health events and lifestyle factors. In addition, skin-prick tests were performed and total serum immunoglobulin (IgE) was determined.


Lifetime prevalence rates for atopic disease and rates of allergic sensitization were highest in children from social class III (in which parents had more than 10 years of formal education) and lowest in social class I (less than 10 years of parental education), while rates in social class II (10 years of parental education) were constant at an intermediate level.


The data confirmed the assumption that in formerly socialist countries social inequalities existed under the socialist system, which were reflected by a social gradient in health outcomes. The findings support the hypothesis that increased access to modern lifestyle could be one reason for the increasing rates of atopic disorders during the last 3 decades.

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