Socio-economic gradients in cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes have been found throughout the developed world and there is some evidence to suggest that these gradients may be steeper for women. Research on social gradients in biological risk factors for CVD and diabetes has received less attention and we do not know the extent to which gradients in biomarkers vary for men and women. We examined the associations between two indicators of socio-economic position (education and household income) and biomarkers of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) for men and women in a national, population-based study of 11,247 Australian adults. Multi-level linear regression was used to assess associations between education and income and glucose tolerance, dyslipidaemia, blood pressure (BP) and waist circumference before and after adjustment for behaviours (diet, smoking, physical activity, TV viewing time, and alcohol use). Measures of glucose tolerance included fasting plasma glucose and insulin and the results of a glucose tolerance test (2 h glucose) with higher levels of each indicating poorer glucose tolerance. Triglycerides and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol were used as measures of dyslipidaemia with higher levels of the former and lower levels of the later being associated with CVD risk. Lower education and low income were associated with higher levels of fasting insulin, triglycerides and waist circumference in women. Women with low education had higher systolic and diastolic BP and low income women had higher 2 h glucose and lower HDL cholesterol. With only one exception (low income and systolic BP), all of these estimates were reduced by more than 20% when behavioural risk factors were included. Men with lower education had higher fasting plasma glucose, 2 h glucose, waist circumference and systolic BP and, with the exception of waist circumference, all of these estimates were reduced when health behaviours were included in the models. While low income was associated with higher levels of 2-h glucose and triglycerides it was also associated with better biomarker profiles including lower insulin, waist circumference and diastolic BP. We conclude that low socio-economic position is more consistently associated with a worse profile of biomarkers for CVD and diabetes for women.
Copyright 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.