The role of socioeconomic position (SEP) in the development of asthma and allergies is unclear, with some pointing to the risks of low SEP and other research pointing in the direction of higher SEP being associated with higher prevalence rates. The aim of this systematic review is to clarify associations between SEP and the prevalence of asthma and allergies. Out of 4407 records identified, 183 were included in the analysis. Low SEP was associated with a higher prevalence of asthma in 63% of the studies. Research on allergies, however, showed a positive association between higher SEP and illness in 66% of studies. Pooled estimates for the odds ratio of disease for the highest compared with the lowest SEP confirmed these results for asthma (unadjusted OR 1.38, 95% CI 1.37-1.39), allergies in general (OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.62-0.72), atopic dermatitis (unadjusted OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.61-0.83) and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (unadjusted OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.46-0.59). Sensitivity analyses with a subsample of high-quality studies led to the same conclusion. Evidence from this systematic review suggests that asthma is associated with lower SEP, whereas the prevalence of allergies is associated with higher SEP.
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