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Socioeconomic trajectories across the life course and risk of total and cause-specific mortality: prospective findings from the Moli-sani Study


Background A life course approach has been suggested as the most appropriate to establish the total impact of socioeconomic status (SES) on adult health outcomes; however, such an approach has been poorly used within Mediterranean populations. We aimed to examine the SES trajectories from childhood to adulthood associated with mortality risk in a large general population-based cohort and to test potential pathways (eg, inflammation) underlying such associations.

Methods Longitudinal analyses on 22 194 subjects recruited in the Moli-sani Study, Italy (2005–2010). Low and high SES in childhood, educational attainment (low/high) and SES during adulthood (measured by a score including material resources and dichotomised as low/high) were used to define overall trajectories.

Results Over 8.3 years of follow-up, 1155 deaths occurred. In the group with poor childhood SES, an upward trajectory in both educational and material circumstances was associated with lower risk of all-cause death (HR=0.64; 95% CI 0.47 to 0.87), as opposed to subjects who remained stably low (low education and adulthood SES). Subjects with high childhood SES, but not educational achievement, were at increased risk of total and cardiovascular disease (CVD) death, although reporting higher material SES in adult life, as compared with the stably high SES group (HR=1.44; 1.02 to 2.02 and HR=1.90; 1.10 to 3.28, respectively). Inflammatory markers marginally accounted for such associations.

Conclusion For individuals with low SES in early life, an educational and material upward trajectory over the life course was associated with lower mortality risk. In the high SES childhood group, lack of a higher educational attainment appeared to be unfavourably associated with survival.

  • socioeconomic status
  • inflammation
  • life course
  • socioeconomic trajectories
  • cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage
  • mortality

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