Class inequalities in women's health: combined impact of childhood and adult social class--a study of 630 US women

Public Health. 2001 May;115(3):175-85. doi: 10.1038/sj/ph/1900754.


To assess contributions of childhood and adult social class to class gradients in women's health, the authors used gender-neutral household measures of class position in a retrospective cohort study of 630 women enrolled in Examination II of the Kaiser Permanente Women Twins Study (1989-1990, Oakland, CA). The age-adjusted odds of reporting fair or poor health was 2.3 times higher (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.2-4.1), using adult class measures, among women categorized as working class vs non-working class/professional. When stratified by childhood social class, however, the elevated risk of fair/poor health among adult working class compared to non-working class/professional women was evident only among those with a non-working class/professional childhood. Similarly, a working class tendency (based on adult class position) towards elevated levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (odds ratio (OR)=1.5, 95% CI=0.9-2.7) and post-load glucose (OR=1.8, 95% CI=1.0-3.3) was apparent only among women who were non-working class in childhood. These results indicate that both childhood and adult class position influence class gradients in women's health in the United States.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cultural Deprivation
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Self-Assessment
  • Social Class*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Twin Studies as Topic
  • Women's Health*