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Am J Public Health. 2006 Dec;96(12):2216-21. Epub 2006 Oct 31.

Social circumstances and education: life course origins of social inequalities in metabolic risk in a prospective national birth cohort.

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  • 1International Centre for Health and Society, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, England, United Kingdom.



We investigated the relative importance of education and childhood and adult social class in the risk of metabolic syndrome.


We conducted a prospective birth cohort study of 1311 men and 1318 women aged 53 years in 1999, when metabolic syndrome components were measured. Logistic regression analyses were used to calculate relative index of inequality estimates.


Relative to men and women at the highest education levels, men (odds ratio [OR]=2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.2, 3.2) and women (OR=2.7; 95% CI=1.5, 4.6) with the least education were at twice the risk or more of having the metabolic syndrome. Adjustment for childhood and adult social class strengthened this result among men and weakened it among women. Childhood social class was independently associated with the metabolic syndrome in women (OR=2.0; 95% CI=1.1, 3.6) but not in men (OR=1.1; 95% CI= 0.7, 1.8). Associations between adult social class and the metabolic syndrome or its components were largely accounted for by childhood socioeconomic measures.


Educational differences should be considered in the design of interventions aimed at reducing the burden of the metabolic syndrome in socially disadvantaged groups.

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