Have health inequalities changed during childhood in the New Labour generation? Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study

Rougeaux, E., Hope, S., Law, C. and Pearce, A. (2017) Have health inequalities changed during childhood in the New Labour generation? Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. BMJ Open, 7(1), e012868. (doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012868) (PMID:28077409) (PMCID:PMC5253527)

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Objectives: To examine how population-level socioeconomic health inequalities developed during childhood, for children born at the turn of the 21st century and who grew up with major initiatives to tackle health inequalities (under the New Labour Government). Setting The UK. Participants: Singleton children in the Millennium Cohort Study at ages 3 (n=15 381), 5 (n=15 041), 7 (n=13 681) and 11 (n=13 112) years. Primary outcomes: Relative (prevalence ratios (PR)) and absolute health inequalities (prevalence differences (PD)) were estimated in longitudinal models by socioeconomic circumstances (SEC; using highest maternal academic attainment, ranging from ‘no academic qualifications’ to ‘degree’ (baseline)). Three health outcomes were examined: overweight (including obesity), limiting long-standing illness (LLSI), and socio-emotional difficulties (SED). Results: Relative and absolute inequalities in overweight, across the social gradient, emerged by age 5 and increased with age. By age 11, children with mothers who had no academic qualifications were considerably more likely to be overweight as compared with those with degree-educated mothers (PR=1.6 (95% CI 1.4 to 1.8), PD=12.9% (9.1% to 16.8%)). For LLSI, inequalities emerged by age 7 and remained at 11, but only for children whose mothers had no academic qualifications (PR=1.7 (1.3 to 2.3), PD=4.8% (2% to 7.5%)). Inequalities in SED (observed across the social gradient and at all ages) declined between 3 and 11, although remained large at 11 (eg, PR=2.4 (1.9 to 2.9), PD=13.4% (10.2% to 16.7%) comparing children whose mothers had no academic qualifications with those of degree-educated mothers). Conclusions: Although health inequalities have been well documented in cross-sectional and trend data in the UK, it is less clear how they develop during childhood. We found that relative and absolute health inequalities persisted, and in some cases widened, for a cohort of children born at the turn of the century. Further research examining and comparing the pathways through which SECs influence health may further our understanding of how inequalities could be prevented in future generations of children.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding Research at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children receives a proportion of the funding from the Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centres funding scheme. AP was funded by a Medical Research Council fellowship (MR/J012351/1). All researchers were independent of the funders. The Millennium Cohort Study is funded by grants to former and current directors of the study from the Economic and Social Research Council (Professor Heather Joshi, Professor Lucinda Platt and Professor Emla Fitzsimons) and a consortium of government funders.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pearce, Dr Anna
Authors: Rougeaux, E., Hope, S., Law, C., and Pearce, A.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMJ Open
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN (Online):2044-6055
Published Online:11 January 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 Rougeaux et al.
First Published:First published in BMJ Open 7:e012868
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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