Lifetime social status and biological ‘wear and tear’
posted on: Mar 4, 2014
A new publication in the journal BMC Public Health has investigated if higher socioeconomic position (SEP e.g. greater educational attainment, higher status occupation etc.) at different stages of the lifecourse is associated with lower allostatic load (a score of multiple biomarkers used to measure cumulative physiological burden across the body). This study by Tony Robertson, Frank Popham and Michaela Benzeval used data from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study and a structured statistical modelling approach to test different theoretical models for how SEP is related to health, namely SEP accumulated over time versus SEP at important critical periods (e.g. in childhood) versus social mobility (e.g. moving from lower to higher SEP between two life-stages).
For those aged 35 and 55, higher SEP was associated with lower allostatic load (no association in the 75-year-olds). The accumulation model showed the best fit with the data compared to the critical period and mobility models, with a longer time spent with higher SEP associated with lower allostatic load (less physiological burden). However, the relative contributions of each life-stage differed, with adulthood SEP less strongly associated with allostatic load compared to in childhood and particularly the transition from childhood to adulthood. This has important implications for our understanding of how inequalities in physiological burden and health develop across the lifecourse and how we can attempt to reduce these inequalities.
For further details click here (open access).