Socioeconomic disparities in cancer-risk behaviors in adolescence: baseline results from the Health and Behaviour in Teenagers Study (HABITS)

Prev Med. 2003 Jun;36(6):721-30. doi: 10.1016/s0091-7435(03)00047-1.


Background: This study explores the association between socioeconomic deprivation and five factors associated with long-term risk of cancer, in adolescents.

Methods: BMI, fat intake, fruit and vegetable intake, smoking, and exercise were assessed in 4320 students ages 11 to 12, from 36 schools, in the first year of a 5-year longitudinal study of the development of health behaviors (HABITS study). Neighborhood socioeconomic deprivation for each student's area of residence was matched to their postcode (zip code). We used multiple logistic regression analyses to investigate the relationship between risky behaviors and socioeconomic circumstances.

Results: Univariate analyses showed boys and girls from more deprived neighborhoods were more likely to have tried smoking, to eat a high fat diet, and to be overweight. Girls living in more deprived areas were also less likely to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables or to exercise at the weekend. Most differences persisted after controlling for ethnicity. A clear deprivation gradient emerged for each risk factor, indicating the linear nature of the relationship.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the influence of deprivation on engaging in cancer-risk health behaviors. These patterns may set young people from more socioeconomically deprived social environments on a trajectory leading to increased cancer mortality in adult life.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Cultural Deprivation*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology