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Open Access Research article

Intergenerational educational mobility is associated with cardiovascular disease risk behaviours in a cohort of young Australian adults: The Childhood Determinants of Adult Health (CDAH) Study

Seana L Gall1*, Joan Abbott-Chapman2, George C Patton3, Terence Dwyer13 and Alison Venn1

Author affiliations

1 Menzies Research Institute, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

2 Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

3 Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-55

Published: 2 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Although educational disparity has been linked to single risk behaviours, it has not previously been studied as a predictor of overall lifestyle. We examined if current education, parental education or educational mobility between generations was associated with healthy lifestyles in young Australian adults.

Methods

In 2004-06, participant and parental education (high [bachelor degree or higher], intermediate [vocational training], low [secondary school only]) were assessed. Educational mobility was defined as: stable high (participant and parent in high group), stable intermediate (participant and parent in intermediate group), stable low (participant and parent in low group), downwardly (lower group than parent) and upwardly (higher group than parent) mobile. We derived a lifestyle score from 10 healthy behaviours (BMI, non-smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure time physical activity and six components of diet). Scores >4 indicated a high healthy lifestyle score. We estimated the likelihood of having a high healthy lifestyle score by education (participant and parent) and educational mobility.

Results

Complete data were available for 1973 participants (53% female, age range 26 to 36 years). Those with lower education were less likely to have healthy lifestyles. Parental education was not associated with having a high healthy lifestyle score after adjustment for participant's education. Those who moved upward or downward were as likely to have a high healthy lifestyle score as those in the group they attained.

Conclusions

We found clear disparities in health behaviour by participant education and intergenerational educational mobility. People attaining a higher level of education than their parents appeared protected from developing an unhealthy lifestyle suggesting that population-wide improvements in education may be important for health.