Background: Our goal was to study associations between childhood socioeconomic position (SEP), adulthood SEP, adulthood risk factors and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, by investigating the critical period and pathway models.
Methods: The prospective GLOBE study in the Netherlands, with baseline data from 1991, was linked with cause of death register data from Statistics Netherlands in 2007. At baseline, respondents reported information on childhood SEP (i.e. occupational level of respondent's father), adulthood SEP (educational level), and adulthood risk factors (health behaviours, material circumstances, and psychosocial factors). Analyses included 4894 men and 5572 women. Data were analysed by Cox proportional hazard ratios (HR) with CVD mortality as the outcome.
Results: Childhood SEP was associated with CVD mortality among men with the lowest childhood SEP only (HR 1.32, 95% CI 1.00-1.74), and not among women. The majority of childhood SEP inequalities in CVD mortality among men (88%) were explained by material, behavioural and psychosocial risk factors in adulthood, and adulthood SEP. This was mostly due to the association of childhood SEP with adulthood SEP, and the interrelations of adulthood SEP with risk factors, and partly via the direct association of childhood SEP with adulthood risk factors, independent of adulthood SEP.
Conclusion: This study supports the pathway model for men, but found no evidence that socioeconomic conditions in childhood are critical for CVD mortality in later life independent of adulthood conditions. Developing effective methods to reduce material and behavioural risk factors among lower socioeconomic groups should be a top priority in cardiovascular disease prevention.
Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases; Life course; Mortality; Risk factors; Socioeconomic position.
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