July 22, 2005

Wealth Doesn’t Always Predict Good Health

NEW YORK -- The findings from a study of insulin resistance in Europe suggest that high earnings and an advanced educational level do not always translate into good health.

In Denmark, children of the most educated and highest earning parents showed the least insulin resistance. By contrast, in Estonia and Portugal, just the opposite was seen.

Insulin resistance, also known as decreased insulin sensitivity, develops when blood sugar levels need to get much higher before insulin release is triggered. Over time, this resistance can cause health problems and lead to diabetes.

The findings, which appear in the current issue of the British Medical Journal, are based on a study of about 1,000 randomly selected schoolchildren living in each of the three countries.

In the Danish group, children of the most educated fathers had 24 percent lower insulin resistance than children of the least educated fathers, lead author Dr. Debbie A. Lawlor, from the University of Bristol in the UK, and colleagues note. A similar association was seen with parent income.

In the Estonian and Portuguese groups, however, children of the most educated fathers had 15 percent and 19 percent higher insulin resistance, respectively, than their peers of the least educated fathers. The magnitude of these associations was largely unchanged when the findings were adjusted for other potentially influential factors.

"These results are a reminder that socioeconomic inequalities are dynamic and vary between countries, over time, and between generations within the same country," the investigators point out.

In a related editorial, Dr. Denny Vagero, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and Dr. Mall Leinsalu, from Soderton University College in Huddinge, Sweden, note that "correctly understanding the development of health and mortality in the formerly Communist led countries of central and eastern Europe is likely to challenge many cherished epidemiological 'truths."'

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, July 23, 2005.