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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Distribution of lipid parameters according to different socio-economic indicators- the EPIC-Norfolk prospective population study

Shamarina Shohaimi1*, Matthijs S Boekholdt2, Robert Luben3, Nick J Wareham4 and Kay-Tee Khaw3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor 43400, Malaysia

2 Department of Cardiology, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

4 MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Cambridge, UK

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:782  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-782

Published: 1 September 2014

Abstract

Background

Data on the relationship between plasma levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and social class have been inconsistent. Most previous studies have used one classification of social class.

Methods

This was a cross-sectional population based study with data on occupational social class, educational level obtained using a detailed health and lifestyle questionnaire. A total of 10,147 men and 12,304 women aged 45–80 years living in Norfolk, United Kingdom, were recruited using general practice age-sex registers as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC-Norfolk). Plasma levels of cholesterol and triglycerides were measured in baseline samples. Social class was classified according to three classifications: occupation, educational level, and area deprivation score according to Townsend deprivation index. Differences in lipid levels by socio-economic status indices were quantified by analysis of variance (ANOVA) and multiple linear regression after adjusting for body mass index and alcohol consumption.

Results

Total cholesterol levels were associated with occupational level among men, and with educational level among women. Triglyceride levels were associated with educational level and occupational level among women, but the latter association was lost after adjustment for age and body mass index. HDL-cholesterol levels were associated with both educational level and educational level among men and women. The relationships with educational level were substantially attenuated by adjustment for age, body mass index and alcohol use, whereas the association with educational class was retained upon adjustment. LDL-cholesterol levels were not associated with social class indices among men, but a positive association was observed with educational class among women. This association was not affected by adjustment for age, body mass index and alcohol use.

Conclusions

The findings of this study suggest that there are sex differences in the association between socio-economic status and serum lipid levels. The variations in lipid profile with socio-economic status may be largely attributed to potentially modifiable factors such as obesity, physical activity and dietary intake.