Trends in the association between height and socioeconomic indicators in France, 1970-2003
Average physical stature has increased dramatically during the 20th century in many populations across the world with few exceptions. It remains unclear if social inequalities in height persist despite improvements in living standards in the welfare economies of Western Europe. We examined trends in the association between height and socioeconomic indicators in adults over three decades in France. The data were drawn from the French Decennial Health Surveys: a multistage, stratified, random survey of households, representative of the population, conducted in 1970, 1980, 1991, and 2003. We categorised age into 10-year bands, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55-64 years. Education and income were the two socioeconomic measures used. The slope index of inequality (SII) was used as a summary index of absolute social inequalities in height. The results show that average height increased over this period; men and women aged 25-34 years were 171.9 and 161.2Â cm tall in 1970 and 177.0 and 164.0Â cm in 2003, respectively. However, education-related inequalities in height remained unchanged over this period and in men were 4.48Â cm (1970), 4.71Â cm (1980), 5.58Â cm (1991) and 4.69Â cm (2003), the corresponding figures in women were 2.41, 2.37, 3.14 and 2.96Â cm. Income-related inequalities in height were smaller and much attenuated after adjustment for education. These results suggest that in France, social inequalities in adult height in absolute terms have remained unchanged across the three decades under examination.
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