Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 31 n° 301

Poverty gets into your skin: Lifepath issue 12

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 26 aprile 2019

The increase of socioeconomic differences may provoke biological changes that in turn translate into health inequalities. A recent study published on Aging by a group of scientists of the Lifepath project revealed that low education might have an impact on health at older age comparable to that of well-known risk factors such as obesity and alcohol abuse. According to the researchers, this effect is mediated by epigenetics modifications associated to biological aging.Poorer people are more likely to experience worse health throughout the course of their life, especially in older age. The risk of poor health is associated with a step-by-step decrease in socio-economic position, creating what has come to be known as a social gradient in health [Figure 1]. Lifepath is a European project that studied the biological processes underlying this association, in order to understand how socioeconomic conditions can “get under the skin”, as Paolo Vineis (Imperial College, London) synthesized during the final meeting of the project he coordinates, held in Geneva (CH).
Early age is a veritable game changer, and it is crucial to intervene to support poorer families and children to make them more resilient to adverse circumstances during life and to ensure a healthy ageing. “Studies from Lifepath show that children and adolescents from low socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to be overweight, having a higher Body Mass Index from as young as the age of three, then affecting health in adulthood. Biological markers in children, such as epigenetic age acceleration, were affected by the social position of the family as well, while living in disadvantaged neighbourhood negatively impacts on several cardiometabolic risk factors.
One of Lifepath’s goals was also to assess the impact of the 2008 recession in Europe. Lifepath researchers completed a study of health inequalities in 27 European countries that included the period of the 2008 banking crisis. “Most European countries have experienced many decades of mortality decline and the evidence suggests this was not derailed by the recession”, comments Johan Mackenbach (Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam). “This study likely reflects a level of resilience in most European countries built up through the provision of financially accessible health care and social support systems. However, mortality from smoking-related causes increased for younger less educated women and mortality from alcohol-related causes went up among less educated men and women”
Studies from Lifepath can be very useful to understand the real causes and biological mechanisms of growing health inequalities affecting our societies, but can also give useful suggestions to policy makers about timing of interventions in order to break the intergenerational transmission of health injustice”, says Michael Marmot (UCL, London). “Undoubtedly, the effects of education and social support in early life is as crucial as interventions on life style factors and on social conditions in adulthood”.

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