Background: Lifestyle diseases and cardiovascular complications are dramatically increasing, but little is known about the impact of educational level and health behaviour in men and women in different populations. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the association between educational level (EL) and self-reported chronic diseases and health behaviour in both sexes.
Methods: Data were derived from the Austrian Health Interview Surveys 2006/2007, which includes 13 558 persons (50.9% females). The associations between EL and the risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, myocardial infarction, stroke and anxiety disorders or depression, nutrition, exercise, and smoking were evaluated. University education served as the reference category (EL4), the lowest educational level was required schooling only (EL0).
Results: Only among women did the risk for diabetes mellitus and hypertension increase with decreasing educational level with the highest rates for EL0 OR [95% CI] adjusted for age, income, family status and lifestyle: 3.7 [1.7-8.0], and 2.5 [1.8-3.5], respectively. Only among the men, however, did the risk for stroke increase with decreasing educational level adjusted OR for EL0: 8.5 [1.7-42.7]. For anthropometric measures and lifestyle factors in both sexes the risk increased with decreasing EL.
Conclusion: EL affects lifestyle, overweight and obesity in both sexes. The apparent sex-specific differences in the association between the prevalence of some chronic disease with EL call for further investigation.