Introduction Although social inequalities in health are widely recognised, the process by which the social environment becomes translated into physiological and psychological processes that influence health remains unclear. The aim of this longitudinal study was to compare changes over time and the relationship between socioeconomic position and different biomarkers in a nationally representative sample of older adults in England.
Methods The sample consisted of 6260 participants aged 50 and older who took part in the 2004 and 2008 waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a prospective national cohort study of people aged 50 years and over. The analyses included biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease as well as those associated with improved health and well-being. The changes in these markers over time were modelled using two measures of socioeconomic status: total (non-pension) wealth and level of education. Analyses were adjusted for confounding variables.
Results The prevalence of overweight, general and abdominal obesity was inversely related to socioeconomic position as defined by wealth and education. Fewer participants who were better off and had more educational qualifications had levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), triglycerides, fibrinogen, CRP and glycated haemoglobin that would indicate increased risk. Total and LDL cholesterol showed an inverse socio-economic gradient.
Conclusion Overall, there was a very clear socio-economic gradient in biomarkers measured in ELSA and the pattern was similar for both men and women.
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