Socioeconomic status and health at midlife. A comparison of educational attainment with occupation-based indicators

Ann Epidemiol. 2001 Feb;11(2):75-84. doi: 10.1016/s1047-2797(00)00079-x.


Purpose: Educational attainment is a widely used indicator of socioeconomic status (SES) in health studies. However, little is known about its relationship to health relative to measures of occupational standing. This study directly compared education with an array of occupational measures-including social class-in relation to health.

Methods: The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study collected self-reported health data from a sample of 6875 Wisconsin high school graduates aged 53-54 in 1992-1993. The analysis regressed overall health, physical symptoms, and medical conditions on socioeconomic indicators, using logistic regression.

Results: Associations of health outcomes with occupational standing net of educational attainment are mainly weak or non-existent. "Occupational education" is the only indicator to have a strong association with health net of education in analyses of both men and women.

Conclusions: While occupation is sometimes an important mechanism linking education and health, control for the overall relation between SES and health may not require measures of occupational standing when educational attainment is measured well. However, the present findings are limited to non-Hispanic white high school graduates from Wisconsin at ages 53-54.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology