OBJECTIVE This study investigated the long-term effects of socioeconomic status (SES) on atherosclerosis.
METHODS Data from the Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study and the Beaver Dam Eye Study (Beaver Dam, WI, 1998-2000), were used to examine adult SES (education, household income, and longest-held job) and childhood SES (household density and parental home ownership at age 13) associations with carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and carotid plaque in a cohort of 2042 men and women aged 53 to 94 years.
RESULTS For education, income, and occupation (women), those in the lowest SES group had statistically larger age-sex-adjusted IMT than those in the highest SES group (12 years education: 0.92 vs. 0.86 mm respectively, P<0.0001), ($45,000: 0.97 vs. 0.87 mm, P<0.0001), (operator/fabricator/labor vs. manager/professional: 0.89 vs. 0.82 mm, P<0.001). Associations were similar using carotid plaque as the outcome. Participants with low levels of both adult and childhood SES measures had age-sex-adjusted IMT greater than those with persistently high levels of SES (0.93 vs. 0.84 mm, P<0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS Measures of SES at two points in the life-span were associated with subclinical atherosclerosis.