Purpose: To examine the associations between social class at ages 0, 5, 10, 30, and 34 years and physical activity at age 34 years using a novel approach to analysis of life course data.
Methods: We used structural equation modeling to compare three competing models in life course epidemiology: the accumulation of risk model with additive effects, the accumulation of risk model with trigger effect, and the critical period model. Data were from a nationally representative prospective cohort of 16,571 British men and women born in 1970. Outcomes were physical activity during leisure time, during transports, and at work.
Results: For all three domains of physical activity, for men and women, the accumulation of risk model with additive effects fit the data best. In this model, social class at ages 0, 5, 10, 30, and 34 years were associated with physical activity at age 34 years, although the magnitude and the direction of the associations for social class at each age varied by physical activity outcome and by sex.
Conclusions: Structural equation modeling appears to be a helpful tool in selecting among competing models in life course epidemiology.
Keywords: Epidemiology; Exercise; Health; Longitudinal studies; Public health; Social class.
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