Saturday, February 4, 2017
Low socioeconomic status reduces life expectancy and should be counted as a major risk factor in health policy.
A study published in the Lancet that evaluated 1.7 million people shows that low socioeconomic status is linked to significant reductions in life expectancy and should be considered a major risk factor for ill health and early death in national and global health policies. The study, using data from the UK, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, USA and Australia, is the first to compare the impact of low socioeconomic status with other major risk factors on health, such as physical inactivity, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and high alcohol intake. Although socioeconomic status is one of the strongest predictors of illness and early death worldwide, it is often overlooked in health policies.In the study, researchers compared socioeconomic status against six of the main risk factors defined by the World Health Organisation in its Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases. The plan aims to reduce non-communicable diseases by 25% by 2025, but omits socioeconomic status as a risk factor for these diseases. The study included data from 48 studies comprising more than 1.7 million people. It used a person's job title to estimate their socioeconomic status and looked at whether they died early.When compared with their wealthier counterparts, people with low socioeconomic status were almost 1.5 times (46%) more likely to die before they were 85 years old. Among people with low socioeconomic status, 55,600 (15.2% of men and 9.4% of women) died before the age of 85, compared with 25,452 (11.5% of men and 6.8% of women) of people with high socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status is important because it is a summary measure of lifetime exposures to hazardous circumstances and behaviours, that goes beyond the risk factors for non-communicable diseases that policies usually address