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Do biological measures mediate the relationship between education and health: A comparative study

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  • Goldman, Noreen
  • Turra, Cassio M.
  • Rosero-Bixby, Luis
  • Weir, David
  • Crimmins, Eileen

Abstract

Despite a myriad of studies examining the relationship between socioeconomic status and health outcomes, few have assessed the extent to which biological markers of chronic disease account for social disparities in health. Studies that have examined this issue have generally been based on surveys in wealthy countries that include a small set of clinical markers of cardiovascular disease. The availability of recent data from nationally representative surveys of older adults in Costa Rica and Taiwan that collected a rich set of biomarkers comparable to those in a recent US survey permits us to explore these associations across diverse populations. Similar regression models were estimated on three data sets - the Social Environment and Biomarkers of Aging Study in Taiwan, the Costa Rican Study on Longevity and Healthy Aging, and the Health and Retirement Study in the USA - in order to assess (1) the strength of the associations between educational attainment and a broad range of biomarkers; and (2) the extent to which these biomarkers account for the relationships between education and two measures of health status (self-rated health, functional limitations) in older populations. The estimates suggest non-systematic and weak associations between education and high risk biomarker values in Taiwan and Costa Rica, in contrast to generally negative and significant associations in the US, especially among women. The results also reveal negligible or modest contributions of the biomarkers to educational disparities in the health outcomes. The findings are generally consistent with previous research suggesting stronger associations between socioeconomic status and health in wealthy countries than in middle-income countries and may reflect higher levels of social stratification in the US. With access to an increasing number of longitudinal biosocial surveys, researchers may be better able to distinguish true variations in the relationship between socioeconomic status and health across different settings from methodological differences.

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  • Goldman, Noreen & Turra, Cassio M. & Rosero-Bixby, Luis & Weir, David & Crimmins, Eileen, 2011. "Do biological measures mediate the relationship between education and health: A comparative study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 307-315, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:2:p:307-315
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kristenson, M. & Eriksen, H. R. & Sluiter, J. K. & Starke, D. & Ursin, H., 2004. "Psychobiological mechanisms of socioeconomic differences in health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(8), pages 1511-1522, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Glei, Dana A. & Goldman, Noreen & Shkolnikov, Vladimir M. & Jdanov, Dmitri & Shalnova, Svetlana & Shkolnikova, Maria & Weinstein, Maxine, 2013. "To what extent do biomarkers account for the large social disparities in health in Moscow?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 164-172.
    2. Liu, Sze Yan & Buka, Stephen L. & Kubzansky, Laura D. & Kawachi, Ichiro & Gilman, Stephen E. & Loucks, Eric B., 2013. "Sheepskin effects of education in the 10-year Framingham risk of coronary heart disease," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 31-36.
    3. Farzad Masoudkabir & Nafiseh Toghianifar & Mohammad Talaie & Masoumeh Sadeghi & Nizal Sarrafzadegan & Nooshin Mohammadifard & Tom Marshall & G. Thomas, 2012. "Socioeconomic status and incident cardiovascular disease in a developing country: findings from the Isfahan cohort study (ICS)," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 57(3), pages 561-568, June.

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