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Open Access Research article

Socioeconomic position across the lifecourse & allostatic load: data from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 cohort study

Tony Robertson1*, Frank Popham2 and Michaela Benzeval23

Author Affiliations

1 Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research & Policy, University of Edinburgh, 20 West Richmond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DX, UK

2 MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK

3 Institute for Social & Economic Research, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:184  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-184

Published: 20 February 2014

Abstract

Background

We examined how socioeconomic position (SEP) across the lifecourse (three critical periods, social mobility and accumulated over time) is associated with allostatic load (a measure of cumulative physiological burden).

Methods

Data are from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study, with respondents aged 35 (n = 740), 55 (n = 817) and 75 (n = 483). SEP measures representing childhood, the transition to adulthood and adulthood SEP were used. Allostatic load was produced by summing nine binary biomarker scores (1 = in the highest-risk quartile). Linear regressions were used for each of the lifecourse models; with model fits compared using partial F-tests.

Results

For those aged 35 and 55, higher SEP was associated with lower allostatic load (no association in the 75-year-olds). The accumulation model (more time spent with higher SEP) had the best model fit in those aged 35 (b = −0.50, 95%CI = −0.68, −0.32, P = 0.002) and 55 (b = −0.31, 95%CI = −0.49, −0.12, P < 0.001). However, the relative contributions of each life-stage differed, with adulthood SEP less strongly associated with allostatic load.

Conclusions

Long-term, accumulated higher SEP has been shown to be associated with lower allostatic load (less physiological burden). However, the transition to adulthood may represent a particularly sensitive period for SEP to impact on allostatic load.

Keywords:
Epidemiology; Health inequalities; Physiology; Social and Lifecourse Epidemiology