Socio-economic inequalities in C-reactive protein and fibrinogen across the adult age span: findings from Understanding Society
01 Jun 2017
Systemic inflammation has been proposed as a physiological process linking socio-economic position (SEP) to health. We examined how SEP inequalities in inflammation –assessed using C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen– varied across the adult age span. Current (household income) and distal (education) markers of SEP were used. Data from 7,943 participants (aged 25+) of Understanding Society (wave 2, 1/2010-3/2012) were employed. We found that SEP inequalities in inflammation followed heterogeneous patterns by age, which differed bythe inflammatory marker examined rather than by SEP measures. SEP inequalities in CRP emerged in 30s, increased up to mid-50s or early 60 s when they peaked and then decreased with age. SEP inequalities in fibrinogen decreased with age. Body mass index (BMI), smoking, physical activity and healthy diet explained part, but not all, of the SEP inequalities in inflammation; in general, BMI exerted the largest attenuation. Cumulative advantage theories and those considering age as a leveler for the accumulation of health and economic advantages across the life-span should be dynamically integrated to better understand the observed heterogeneity in SEP differences in health across the lifespan. The attenuating roles of health-related lifestyle indicators suggest that targeting health promotion policies may help reduce SEP inequalities in health.
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