A recent study by Swedish researchers which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has shown that people who remain in a lower social class are more prone to high blood pressure and developing associated diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
In the study 12,000 same sex twins who were born between 1926 and 1958 were questioned and their social status and health checked. It was found that those that were born into a relatively low social status but moved up to a higher social status (usually through finding good employment) were less likely to develop high blood pressure than people who stayed in a lower or less wealthy social class.
The results of the surveys showed that on average being of a higher social-economic class resulted in a 12.9% risk of developing high blood pressure whereas being of a lower social-economic class resulted in a 17.1% chance of developing high blood pressure.
Generally poorer social-economic status results in a poorer diet and decreased activity in later life. Many people on the lowest parts of the social-economic scale consume more junk food and processed food and much less fresh fruits and vegetables. Smoking and alcohol consumption tends to be higher too.
Once again this highlights the need to close the social class divide and to give greater opportunities of employment and health to those currently trapped in the lower social classes. The key discovery is that if someone is born in a lower social class they are not destined to remain unhealthy and unfit, they really can improve their entire live by improving their social class.
To overcome this problem more work really needs to be done to educate the unemployed and those working in poorly paid professions about the importance of exercise and healthy eating. This information really needs to come from those that are closest to them though, such as from schools, employers and the local community.
Maybe one initiative would be to get more pubs involved in spreading the word about health and fitness? Another option could be to provide weight loss guides and incentives to those that follow the guides, such as free NHS dental work for those that lose most weight?
“Intergenerational social mobility and the risk of hypertension” by Lovisa Högberg, Sven Cnattingius, Cecilia Lundholm, Pär Sparén, Anastasia N Iliadou – J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech.2010.130567