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Early-life socioeconomic position and the accumulation of health-related deficits by midlife in the 1958 British birth cohort study

Rogers, Nina and Blodgett, Joanna and Searle, Samuel and Cooper, Rachel and Davis, Daniel and Pinto Pereira, Snehal (2021) Early-life socioeconomic position and the accumulation of health-related deficits by midlife in the 1958 British birth cohort study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 190 (8). pp. 1550-1560. ISSN 0002-9262

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Abstract

Reducing population levels of frailty is an important goal, and preventing its development in midadulthood could be pivotal. There is limited evidence on associations between childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) and frailty. Using data on the 1958 British birth cohort (followed from 1958 to 2016; n = 8,711), we aimed to 1) establish the utility of measuring frailty in midlife, by examining associations between a 34-item frailty index at age 50 years (FI50y) and mortality at ages 50-58 years, and 2) examine associations between early-life SEP and FI50y and investigate whether these associations were explained by adult SEP. Hazard ratios for mortality increased with increasing frailty; for example, the sex-adjusted hazard ratio for the highest quintile of FI50y versus the lowest was 4.07 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.64, 6.25). Lower early-life SEP was associated with higher FI50y. Compared with participants born in the highest social class, the estimated total effect on FI50y was 42.0% (95% CI: 35.5, 48.4) for participants born in the lowest class, with the proportion mediated by adult SEP being 0.45% (95% CI: 0.35, 0.55). Mediation by adult SEP was negligible for other early-life SEP classes. Findings suggest that early-life SEP is associated with frailty and that adult SEP only partially explains this association. Results highlight the importance of improving socioeconomic circumstances across the life course to reduce inequalities in midlife frailty.

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