Study objective: To investigate the association between socio-economic position, overall and cause-specific mortality, and risk factors in a sample of men and women in the Italian population.
Design: Cohort study. MATISS Project (Malattie Aterosclerotiche Istituto Superiore di Sanità).
Setting: Rural area, Province of Latina, Lazio, central Italy.
Participants: Baseline data were obtained for 8512 subjects (3982 men and 4530 women), 20-75 years of age, of whom 713 died during 11 (range 2; 15) years of follow-up. Education and occupation (used as measures of socio-economic position), smoking history, alcohol consumption, health status measures, blood pressure, plasma lipids and ECGs were collected at baseline. Linear and logistic regressions were performed to examine the association between socioeconomic position and risk factors. The hazard ratios (HRs) of all-cause, CVD and cancer mortality, according to educational level and occupational categories were computed using Cox proportional hazard models.
Main results: The lower social groups had a more adverse risk factors profile with the exception of smoking habit in women and HDL cholesterol in men. The risk of death in college educated men was 50% of that found for men with no formal education. The risk of cancer in the least educated was 60% higher than for highly educated men. No clear pattern was observed in women. The HRs were not substantially changed when controlling for potential confounding factors. In both men and women mortality did not vary by occupational class.
Conclusions: The association observed between education and mortality was stronger than previously reported in Italy. This may reflect changes in risk factors profile; in particular with regard to smoking habit. The effect of changes in risk factor distribution will become apparent in future mortality and morbidity patterns.