Background Previous studies have reported associations between lower lifetime socioeconomic position (SEP) and higher body mass index in adulthood, but few have examined associations with direct measures of fat and lean mass which are likely to have independent roles in health and physical functioning.
Methods We examined associations of SEP across life with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry measures of fat and lean mass at 60-64 years using data from a total of 1558 men and women participating in the Medical Research Council (MRC) National Survey of Health and Development. We also examined whether associations of childhood SEP with fat and lean mass were explained by preadulthood weight gain (birth weight, 0-7 and 7-20 years) and adult SEP.
Results Lower SEP across life was associated with higher fat mass and higher android to gynoid fat mass ratio. For example, the mean difference in fat mass index comparing the lowest with the highest paternal occupational class at 4 years (slope index of inequality) was 1.04 kg/m(1.2) in men (95% CI 0.09 to 1.99) and 2.61 in women (1.34 to 3.89), equivalent to a 8.6% and 16.1% difference, respectively. After adjustment for fat mass, lower SEP across life was associated with lower lean mass in women, while only contemporaneous household income was associated in men. Associations between childhood SEP and outcomes were partly explained by preadulthood weight gain and adult SEP.
Conclusions This study identified lifetime socioeconomic patterning of fat and lean mass in early old age. This is likely to have important implications and may partly explain socioeconomic inequalities in health and physical functioning.
- FAT-FREE MASS
- X-RAY ABSORPTIOMETRY
- METABOLIC SYNDROME
- EUROPEAN ADULTS
- LEAN MASS