Background: Low educational level is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. The aim of the present study was to examine the relationships between education and common cardiovascular risk factors in young adults.
Methods: Trends in conventional risk factors of young adults aged 21, 24, 27 and 30 years in 1992 (n = 443) were examined across the educational groups as part of a 12-year follow-up study, the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. Education was determined as participants' own educational level and as parental years of schooling.
Results: In males, subject's own education was related inversely and independently of parental school years to serum total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration, smoking and body mass index. In females, participant's own educational level associated inversely with smoking and physical inactivity. Parental school years was associated inversely and independently of one's own educational level with serum total and LDL cholesterol values and waist-hip ratio in females. In both genders, parental education was a stronger determinant of diet (butter use) than one's own educational level.
Conclusions: The least educated young adults have adopted a more adverse lifestyle than the more educated. The risk factor profile in young adulthood, especially in females, is still affected by parental education. The influences of one's own and parental educational level on vascular risk profile should be taken into consideration when planning public health campaigns among young adults.