Background In this study, the authors investigate gender-specific effects of childhood socio-economic position (SEP) on adiposity and blood pressure at three time points in adulthood.
Methods Mixed models were used to assess the association of childhood SEP with body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) at ages 36, 43 and 53 years in a British birth cohort.
Results The adverse effect of lower childhood SEP on adiposity increased between ages 36 and 53 years in women (BMI: trend test: p=0.03) and remained stable in men, but the opposite was seen for SBP, where inequalities increased in men (p=0.01). Childhood SEP inequalities in DBP were stable with age in both men and women. Educational attainment mediated some but not all of the effects of childhood SEP on adiposity and SBP, and their rate of change; adult social class was a less important mediator.
Conclusion Childhood SEP is important for adult adiposity and blood pressure across midlife, especially for BMI in women and for blood pressure in men. Thus, pathways to adult health differ for men and women, and public health policies aimed at reducing social inequalities need to start early in life and take account of gender.
- Childhood social class
- adult social class
- blood pressure
- body mass index (BMI)
- waist circumference
- gender differences
- gender inequalities
- longitudinal studies
- social class
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Funding The manuscript is funded by MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing in UK and supported in part by the Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, NIH in USA, and the Research Council of Norway.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Multicentre Research Ethics Committee (MREC) approval.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.