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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Does economic development contribute to sex differences in ischaemic heart disease mortality? Hong Kong as a natural experiment using a case-control study

C Mary Schooling1*, Tai Hing Lam1, Sai Yin Ho1, Kwok Hang Mak2 and Gabriel M Leung1

Author Affiliations

1 Dept of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR, China

2 Department of Health, Hong Kong SAR, China

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-32

Published: 25 January 2008

Abstract

Background

The male excess risk of premature ischemic heart disease (IHD) mortality may be partially due to an unknown macro-environmental influence associated with economic development. We examined whether excess male risk of IHD mortality was higher with birth in an economically developed environment.

Methods

We used multivariable logistic regression in a population-based case-control study of all adult deaths in Hong Kong Chinese in 1998 to compare sex differences in IHD mortality (1,189 deaths in men, 1,035 deaths in women and 20,842 controls) between Hong Kong residents born in economically developed Hong Kong or in contemporaneously undeveloped Guangdong province in China.

Results

Younger (35–64 years) native-born Hong Kong men had a higher risk of IHD death than such women (odds ratio 2.91, 95% confidence interval 1.66 to 5.13), adjusted for age, socio-economic status and lifestyle. There was no such sex difference in Hong Kong residents who had migrated from Guangdong. There were no sex differences in pneumonia deaths by birth place.

Conclusion

Most of these people migrated as young adults; we speculate that environmentally mediated differences in pubertal maturation (when the male disadvantage in lipids and fat patterning emerges) may contribute to excess male premature IHD mortality in developed environments.