Skip to content

Journal Article

Early-life inequalities and biological ageing: a multisystem Biological Health Score approach in Understanding Society

Authors

Publication date

Aug 2019

Summary

Social position is known to play a role in the quality of ageing, notably through the stimulation/dysregulation of key physiological systems in response to external stresses. Using data from one wave of Understanding Society including 9088 participants, we defined, as an extension of the allostatic load, a synthetic Biological Health Score (BHS) capturing the wear-and-tear of four physiological systems (endocrine, inflammatory, cardiovascular and metabolic systems) and two organs (liver and kidney). We used 16 established blood-derived biomarkers of these systems to calculate the BHS and explored the relative contribution of socioeconomic position to the BHS and its main components across age groups. We identified a systematic decreasing education-related gradient of the BHS (p<0.001) leading to lower biological risk in participants with longer education. Education-related differences in the BHS were detected early in life, and were not attributable to lifestyle and behavioural factors. We found a consistent contribution of the inflammatory and metabolic systems to the overall score throughout from early adulthood onwards, while the contribution of the other four systems seems to vary across age groups and gender. Our findings highlight the social-to-biological processes ultimately leading to health inequalities, and suggest that such disparities can already be detected in the 20–40 years old age group and cannot be fully explained by lifestyle and behavioural factors. This may define early adulthood social condition as a precursor to accelerated biological ageing and as an important target for public health policies.

Published in

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Volume and page numbers

73 , 693 -702

DOI

https://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech-2018-212010

ISSN

16

Subjects

Health, Life Course Analysis, Social Stratification, and Biology

Notes

Open Access; This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

#525624


Research home

Research home

News

Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author

Podcasts

Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society

Projects

Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs

Events

Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report

Themes

Key research themes and areas of interest