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Open Access Research article

Socioeconomic factors from midlife predict mobility limitation and depressed mood three decades later; Findings from the AGES-Reykjavik Study

Daniëlle AI Groffen1*, Annemarie Koster1, Hans Bosma1, Marjan van den Akker23, Thor Aspelund45, Kristín Siggeirsdóttir4, Gertrudis IJM Kempen6, Jacques ThM van Eijk1, Gudny Eiriksdottir45, Pálmi V Jónsson45, Lenore J Launer7, Vilmundur Gudnason45, Tamara B Harris7 and Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study Investigators

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Social Medicine, CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Department of General Practice, School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

3 Department of General Practice, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

4 Icelandic Heart Association, Kopavogur, Iceland

5 Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland

6 CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, Department of Health Services Research, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

7 Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-101

Published: 4 February 2013



Taking into account our rapidly ageing population, older people are of particular interest in studying health inequalities. Most studies of older persons only include measures of current socioeconomic status (SES) and do not take into account data from earlier stages of life. In addition, only classic SES measures are used, while alternative measures, such as car ownership and house ownership, might equally well predict health. The present study aims to examine the effect of midlife socioeconomic factors on mobility limitation and depressed mood three decades later.


Data were from 4,809 men and women aged 33–65 years who participated in the Reykjavik Study (1967–1992) and who were re-examined in old age in the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility (AGES) -Reykjavik Study (2002–2006).


Education and occupation predicted mobility limitation and depressed mood. Independently, home and car ownership and the availability of housing features predicted mobility limitation. Shortages of food in childhood and lack of a car in midlife predicted depressed mood.


Socioeconomic factors from midlife and from childhood affect mobility limitation and depressed mood in old age. Prevention of health problems in old age should begin as early as midlife.

Socioeconomic status; Mobility limitation; Depressed mood; Midlife; Old age