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Childhood socioeconomic circumstances predict specific causes of death in adulthood: the Glasgow student cohort study
  1. Bruna Galobardes1,
  2. George Davey Smith1,
  3. Mona Jeffreys2,
  4. Peter McCarron3
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr B Galobardes
 Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Whiteladies Road, Canynge Hall, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK; bruna.galobardes{at}

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Socioeconomic circumstances occurring throughout the life course are important predictors of adult health outcomes.1–3 In a recent review we found some evidence that, compared with studies using contemporaneous measures of childhood exposures, those studies relying on recalled childhood information in adulthood tend to report less consistent or weaker associations with adult mortality.2 A new analysis of the Kuopio study using historical records of childhood socioeconomic circumstances finds higher mortality risk among those who experienced worse circumstances in childhood4 that was not found when only recalled childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) was available.5 Thus, using contemporaneously collected measures of childhood SEP seems to provide better estimates of the true association with later disease. Furthermore, the effect of childhood socioeconomic circumstances varies according to specific causes of death, which may suggest specific mechanisms or time periods of susceptibility. However, few current cohorts have both contemporaneous measures of early life SEP and sufficient number of deaths to carry out such detailed analysis. We have previously reported a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality with lower childhood SEP in the Glasgow student cohort study.6 However, the number of deaths did not allow for analysis of more specific causes of death. As we now have longer follow up and more events we have investigated the association between childhood SEP and specific causes of death.


Detailed information on the Glasgow alumni cohort study is available elsewhere.7 Briefly, students attending Glasgow University between 1948 and 1968 were invited to participate in a health examination carried out by physicians. Information on sociodemographic characteristics, medical history, and health behaviours was obtained and father’s main occupation was also recorded. A total of 11 755 men, representing about 50% of the complete male student population, participated in the study. Since 1998, 85% of the …

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  • Funding: the authors acknowledge the financial support of the Stroke Association; Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland; the National Health Service Research and Development Cardiovascular Disease Programme; and the World Cancer Research Fund. BG is funded by the Medical Research Council through Research Fellowship in Health of the Public. GDS holds a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigators Award in Health Policy Research. PM is supported by a career scientist award funded by the Research and Development Office for Health and Personal Social Services in Northern Ireland. The Centre for Public Health Research (Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand) is supported by a Programme Grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The authors’ work was independent of the funding sources.

  • Competing interests: none declared.