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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2013 Nov 1;67(11):932-8. doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-202624. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

The effect of childhood socioeconomic position on alcohol-related disorders later in life: a Swedish national cohort study.

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Centre for Health Equity Studies, Stockholm University/Karolinska Institutet, , Stockholm, Sweden.



Alcohol use is the third most important global-health risk factor and a main contributor to health inequalities. Previous research on social determinants of alcohol-related disorders has delivered inconsistent results. We aimed to investigate whether socioeconomic position (SEP) in childhood predicts alcohol-related disorders in young adulthood in a Swedish national cohort.


We studied a register-based national cohort of Swedish citizens born during 1973-1984 (N=948 518) and followed them up to 2009 from age 15. Childhood SEP was defined by a six-category socioeconomic index from the Censuses of 1985 and 1990. HRs of alcohol-related disorders, as indicated by register entries on alcohol-related death and alcohol-related medical care, were analysed in Cox regression models with adjustment for sociodemographic variables and indicators of parental morbidity and criminality.


Low childhood SEP was associated with alcohol-related disorders later in life among both men and women in a stepwise manner. Growing up in a household with the lowest SEP was associated with risk for alcohol-related disorders of HR: 2.24 (95% CI 2.08 to 2.42) after adjustment for sociodemographic variables, compared with the highest SEP group. Adjusting the analysis for parental psychosocial problems attenuated the association to HR 1.87 (95% CI 1.73 to 2.01).


The study demonstrates that low SEP in childhood predicts alcohol-related disorders in young adulthood. Alcohol abuse needs to be addressed in policies to bridge the gap of health inequalities.


Alcohol; Longitudinal Studies; Social Class; Social Epidemiology; Social Inequalities

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