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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Education, Income and Ethnic Differences in Cumulative biological Risk Profiles in a National Sample of US Adults: NHANES III (1988-1994)


Data from the nationally representative NHANES III cohort were used to examine the hypothesis that socio-economic status is consistently and negatively associated with levels of biological risk, as measured by nine biological parameters known to affect health risks (i.e., diastolic and systolic blood pressure, pulse, HDL and total cholesterol, glycosylated hemoglobin, c-reactive protein, albumin and waist-hip ratio), resulting in greater cumulative burdens of biological risk among those of lower education and/or income. As hypothesized, consistent education and income gradients were seen for biological parameters reflecting cardiovascular, metabolic and inflammatory risk: those with lower education and income exhibiting greater prevalence of high risk values for each of nine individual biological risk factors. Significant education and income gradients were also seen for summary indices reflecting cumulative burdens of cardiovascular, metabolic and inflammatory risks as well as overall total biological risks. There were no significant ethnic differences in the patterns of association between socio-economic status and biological risks. Multivariable cumulative logistic regression models revealed that the education and income effects were each independently and negatively associated with cumulative biological risks, and that these effects remained significant independent of age, gender, ethnicity and lifestyle factors such as smoking and physical activity.

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