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Association between self-reported childhood socioeconomic position and adult lung function: findings from the British Women’s Heart and Health Study
  1. D A Lawlor,
  2. S Ebrahim,
  3. G Davey Smith
  1. Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr D A Lawlor
    Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK;


Background: A study was undertaken to assess the associations between indicators of early life socioeconomic position and lung function in older adulthood.

Methods: The associations of self-reported indicators of childhood socioeconomic position with adult lung function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and forced expiratory flow rate during mid expiration (FEF25–75), all measured using standard procedures) were assessed in a cross sectional study of 3641 British women aged 60–79 years.

Results: In confounder adjusted analyses, each individual indicator of childhood circumstances was inversely associated with each measure of lung function. In the fully adjusted models (including mutual adjustment for each of the other indicators of childhood socioeconomic circumstances), only childhood occupational social class and access to a car were associated with lung function in adulthood. However, there were strong linear trends of worsening lung function with greater numbers of indicators of childhood poverty (all p values <0.001).

Conclusions: Childhood poverty is associated with poorer lung function in women aged 60–79 years. Adverse childhood circumstances that affect both lung growth and development and cardiovascular disease in later life may explain some of the well known associations between poor lung function and cardiovascular disease, or lung function may be an important mediating factor in this association.

  • socioeconomic conditions
  • lung function
  • poverty
  • childhood
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  • The British Women’s Heart and Health Study is funded by the Department of Health. Dr Lawlor is funded by a Medical Research Council/Department of Health (UK) training fellowship when this work was undertaken and is now funded by a Department of Health career scientist award. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Department of Health or MRC.

  • Conflict of interests: none.

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