Objective: To examine the potential role of 2 early-life socioeconomic indicators, parental education, and crowding index, on risk of type 1 diabetes (T1DM) in patients up to age 29 years to test heterogeneity by age at onset according to the hygiene hypothesis.
Study design: The study base was 330 950 individuals born from 1967 to 2006 who resided in the city of Turin at any time between 1984 and 2007. Data on their early life socioeconomic position were derived from the Turin Longitudinal Study; 414 incident cases of T1DM up to age 29 years were derived from the Turin T1DM registry.
Results: Socioeconomic indicators had opposing effects on risk of T1DM in different age at onset subgroups. In a Poisson regression model that included both socioeconomic indicators, there was a 3-fold greater risk of T1DM (relative risk 2.91, 95% CI 0.99-8.56) in children age 0-3 years at diagnosis living in crowded houses. In the 4- to 14-year subgroup, a low parental educational level had a protective effect (relative risk 0.50, 95% CI 0.29-0.84), and the effect of crowding nearly disappeared. In the 15- to 29-year subgroup, neither crowding nor parental educational level was clearly associated with the incidence of T1DM.
Conclusions: We provide evidence of heterogeneity by age at onset of the association between early-life socioeconomic indicators and the risk of T1DM. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that infectious agents in the perinatal period may increase the risk, whereas in the following years they may become protective factors (hygiene hypothesis).
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