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Circulation. 2007 Nov 20;116(21):2383-90.

Socioeconomic position, race/ethnicity, and inflammation in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis.

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Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48104, USA.



Low socioeconomic position is known to be associated with cardiovascular events and atherosclerosis. Reasons for these associations remain a topic of research. Inflammation could be an important mediating mechanism linking socioeconomic position to cardiovascular risk.


This cross-sectional study used data from the baseline examination of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a study of 6814 men and women 45 to 84 years of age. Race- and ethnicity-stratified regression analyses were used to estimate associations of household income and education with C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 before and after adjustment for infection and medication use, psychosocial factors, behaviors, adiposity, and diabetes mellitus. Low income was associated with higher concentrations of interleukin-6 in all race/ethnic groups. Percent differences associated with 1-SD-lower income were 9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 7 to 11), 6% (95% CI, 1 to 10), 8% (95% CI, 4 to 11), and 8% (95% CI, 3 to 13) for whites, Chinese, blacks, and Hispanics. Low levels of education were associated with higher levels of interleukin-6 only among whites and blacks (percent difference in interleukin-6 associated with 1-SD-lower education: 9% [95% CI, 6 to 12] among Whites, and 7% [95% CI, 3 to 10] among blacks). Similar patterns were observed for C-reactive protein. Adiposity was the single most important factor explaining socioeconomic position associations, especially among blacks and whites. A smaller effect was seen for psychosocial factors and behaviors in all race groups.


Both household income and education are associated with inflammation, but associations vary across race/ethnic groups. Associations likely result from socioeconomic position patterning of adiposity and other factors.

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