Lifelong socioeconomic position and physical performance in midlife: results from the British 1946 birth cohort

Eur J Epidemiol. 2011 Jun;26(6):475-83. doi: 10.1007/s10654-011-9562-9. Epub 2011 Mar 17.


Socioeconomic position (SEP) across life is found to be related to adult physical performance, but the underlying pathways are not well characterized. Using a British birth cohort (N = 2956), the associations of SEP from childhood into midlife with objective physical performance measures in midlife were examined, adjusting for possible confounders or mediators, including indicators of muscle development and central nervous system function. Childhood and adulthood SEP were positively related to standing balance and chair rise performance, but not to grip strength after basic adjustments. When both father's occupation and mother's education were included in the same model, having a mother with low education was associated with 0.6 standard deviations (SD) (95% confidence interval (CI: 0.3, 0.8)) poorer standing balance time compared with having a mother with the highest educational level, and having a father in the lowest occupational group was associated with a 0.3 SD (95% CI: 0.1, 0.6) lower chair rise score compared with having a father in the highest occupational group. These associations were maintained, albeit attenuated, after adjustment. In contrast, the associations of own education and adult occupation with physical performance were generally not maintained after adjustment. SEP across life impacts on midlife physical performance, and thereby the ageing process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations
  • Parents
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Social Class*
  • United Kingdom