From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Relative Equality in Health in Youth

The first stage of this inquiry involved the Twenty-07 youngest cohort in 1987.  It found little or no differences due to social class in health among 15 year-olds. This applied to (limiting) longstanding illness, physical and malaise symptoms, mental health (GHQ) and blood pressure in both sexes, and extended in females to accidents, self-rated health and respiratory function. This pattern held when examined by reference to other socio-economic indicators, e.g. housing tenure, and led to the conclusion that youth was characterised by relative equality, rather than inequality, in health.

Twelve years later, in 1999, a similar pattern was found among 15 year-olds in the 11 to 16/16+ study. In both cohorts, however, class differences in height were found, lower class youth being of shorter stature, which may anticipate future health inequalities.

In the PaLS study of 15 year-olds in 2006 little or no variation in cortisol (a biological marker of stress) was found by social class, area deprivation or family affluence.



West P, Sweeting H. Evidence on equalisation in health in youth from the West of Scotland. Social Science & Medicine 2004;59:13-27



West P, Sweeting H. Fifteen, female and stressed: changing patterns of psychological distress over time. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2003;44:399-411



West P, Sweeting H. Health inequalities: what's going on in youth?. Health Education 1996;5:14-20


Ford G, Ecob R, Hunt K, Macintyre S, West P. Patterns of class inequality in health through the lifespan: class gradients at 15, 35 and 55 years in the West of Scotland. Social Science & Medicine 1994;39:1037-1050

pubmed  open access  


Macintyre S, West P. Lack of class variation in health in adolescence: an artefact of an occupational measure of social class. Social Science & Medicine 1991;32:395-402

pubmed  open access  


West P, Macintyre S, Annandale E, Hunt K. Social class and health in youth: findings from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. Social Science & Medicine 1990;30:665-673

pubmed  open access  


West P. Inequalities? Social class differentials in health in British youth. Social Science & Medicine 1988;27:291-296

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  • Cortisol

    Cortisol is a hormone that is involved in the response to stress; it increases blood pressure and blood sugar levels and suppresses the immune system.  Changes in serum cortisol levels have been observed in connection with clinical depression, psychological distress, and such physiological stressors as hypoglycaemia, illness, fever and physical exertion.

  • General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)

    A standard screening device for identifying minor (non-psychotic) psychiatric disorder, often referred to as ‘psychological distress'.

  • Limiting longstanding illness

    Based on a standard question - ‘Do you suffer from any longstanding illness, disability or infirmity (and if so) Does this/these limit your activities in any way'?

  • Malaise symptoms

    An index based on reports of one or more of the following symptoms in the last month - felt nervous, worried or anxious; felt sad, unhappy or low; felt irritable or bad tempered; had difficulty getting to sleep 

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