Different Poor-Health Choices, Similar Outcomes

Study compares low socioeconomic status' link to unhealthy behaviors in different cultural settings

(RxWiki News) While low socioeconomic status is often linked to unhealthy behaviors, these unhealthy behaviors range from country to country, according to a new study.

Researchers from INSERM, (the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health) and University College London(Department of Epidemiology and Public Health) looked at whether health behaviors are equally important mediators of the links between socio-economic status and health in various countries.

The team analyzed findings from two recent studies: the British Whitehall II study (which looked at the socioeconomic gradient in health among 10,308 London-based civil servants -- 6,895 men and 3,413 women, aged 35-55) and the French GAZEL study (which looked at 20,625 employees of the French national gas and electricity company -- 15,011 men and 5,614 women, aged 35-50).

They found smoking and unhealthy diet to be more prevalent in the Whitehall study than in the GAZEL. Socioeconomic differences in mortality -- for lowest versus highest-ranking occupational positions -- were similar in the two studies with a hazard ratio of 1.62 in Whitehall II and 1.94 in GAZEL. Health behaviors significantly weakened the links between socio-economic status and mortality by 75 percent in Whitehall but only by 19 percent in GAZEL. The supplementary analysis the researchers conducted using education and income as socio-economic markers gave similar results.

Review Date: 
February 23, 2011