Background: To compare socioeconomic differences in behavioural and biological risk factors in Japanese and English 39-59-year-old employed men.
Methods: We measured systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio and fibrinogen at medical screenings and smoking and alcohol consumption in health questionnaires among Japanese non-manual and manual employees of a steel products company and among English non-manual employees working in Civil Service departments.
Results: In England, higher employment grades were advantaged with regard to most risk factors studied. In Japan the picture was different in that higher grades had higher BMI, waist-to-hip-ratio and lower HDL cholesterol. In Japan employment grade differences in these three risk factors are clearly larger among younger men than among older men, while in England age differentials in the grade differences are small. Similar results were obtained for education.
Conclusions: Important differences in the social patterning of risk factors were observed in our cohorts of employed Japanese and English men. The contribution that these risk factors make in explaining social differences in health may vary accordingly. Studies that identify the common and unique determinants of socioeconomic health differences in different populations are needed.