Background Ecological findings from Europe in the 1970s demonstrated an interaction between deprivation during early life and adult cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality. These findings hold renewed significance today in the context of emerging epidemics of CVD in rapidly developing countries. If generalizable to such settings, understanding of the interaction between early life deprivation and CVD mortality might improve disease projections and targeting of resources to high risk areas. To investigate this, we studied economic development rates since 1940 and current CVD mortality in Brazil.
Hypothesis Currently, higher GDP/capita is associated with higher CVD mortality at municipality level in Brazil. We hypothesised that if deprivation was a risk factor for CVD mortality during the early life period, municipalities which have undergone the greatest shifts from low to high GDP/capita in the past 50–70 years would have higher CVD mortality rates today than those with consistently high or low GDP/capita.
Methods We used municipality-level data on deaths, demographics and gross domestic product (GDP) from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Our primary outcome was CVD mortality rate in 2005–14, defined and adjusted according to the WHO Global Burden of Disease protocol. We compared the trajectory of municipality GDP/capita between time of birth and time of death, defined by tertiles of GDP/capita at each time point. Analyses were age-standardised and stratified by sex. Municipalities were grouped to reflect 1940s borders and excluded where this was not possible. We conducted analyses on R.
Results In 1557 included municipalities, 367 had a low-low GDP/capita trajectory, 44 had low-high and 329 had high-high. Age-adjusted CVD mortality rates for >50 year-olds, per 1 00 000 person years, in low-low, low-high and high-high trajectory municipalities, respectively, were 656.7 (95%CI: 636.2, 677.2), 758.2 (95%CI: 713.8, 802.5) and 821.9 (95%CI: 810.7, 833.2) among men (p-value trend test <0.001); and 447.0 (95%CI: 430.5, 463.4), 414.4 (95%CI: 383.5, 445.3) and 449.5 (95%CI: 442.0, 457.0) among women (p-value trend test >0.1). These findings were not substantially altered in sensitivity analyses checking for the potential effects of internal migration.
Conclusion Contrary to what we hypothesised, Brazilian municipalities which have shifted from low to high GDP/capita did not exhibit higher rates of CVD mortality than consistently high or low municipalities. This reminds us to be cautious extrapolating evidence generated in high-income settings to rapidly developing settings where social and economic contexts surrounding CVD differ markedly. Further individual-level studies with robust designs are needed, as inference from ecological studies has limitations.
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