Date Published: 24 July 2005
Richer Europeans not necessarily healthier than poorer ones (Research from UK & Sweden)
Comparison of child-health parameter in children from different income brackets in Denmark, Portugal, and Estonia:
Recent research by the Department of Social Medicine at Bristol University (UK) and the Centre for Health Equity Studies, Stockholm University (Sweden) suggests that across Europe, children from poor families don’t necessarily have worse health than children with more affluent and better educated parents.
These findings, published in this week’s British Medical Journal (BMJ, www.bmjjournals.com) challenge the widely held view that adverse social circumstances in childhood lead to an increased risk of coronary heart disease in later life.
The study was conducted by Dr Debbie Lawlor of Bristol’s Department of Social Medicine and Professor Denny Vagero of the Centre for Health Equity Studies, Stockholm University. It involved 3,189 randomly selected school children from Denmark (one of the richest countries in Europe), and two poorer countries, Estonia and Portugal. Insulin resistance (a pre-cursor of heart disease) was measured for each child.
Among Danish children, those with the most educated and highest earning parents were the least insulin resistant. But the opposite was true for children from Estonia and Portugal - those from the most educated and highest earning parents were the most insulin resistant.
The higher levels of insulin resistance among children of better educated parents in Estonia and Portugal may be the result of adoption of Western lifestyles.
Dr. Lawlor said:
“ These results are an important reminder that socioeconomic inequalities are dynamic and vary over time and between countries.”
In an accompanying commentary, researchers question whether consumption of Western style ‘junk’ food is creating the pattern of high insulin resistance among children of highly educated parents. Instead they suggest that anomalies like these help point towards gaps in our understanding and warn against too simplistic a view of health inequalities.
University, England (UK)