The link between chronic disease, education and class



As previously reported a study last year looked at the association between socioeconomic status and chronic diseases based on postcode.

Recent research from the Sax Institute analysed risk among lesser-educated people across suburbs that include the wealthy and more disadvantaged areas.

A five year study of more than 260,000 Australians has found those with no tertiary qualifications are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack.

The lower your education the more vulnerable you are to suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study.

Lead researcher Dr Rosemary Korda says the findings of the five-year longitudinal study are "disturbing but clear".

Researchers investigated the links between education and cardiovascular disease events - such as heart attack or stroke, by following more than 276,000 men and women in NSW aged over 45.

In adults aged 45-64 years, heart attack rates among those with no educational qualifications were more than double those with a degree.

The risk was about two-thirds or 70 per cent higher for those with some tertiary qualification, such as that obtained for a trade, just not a university degree.

A similar pattern of inequality existed between household income and cardiovascular disease events, but the findings could reflect a number of factors, including different lifestyle behaviours, like different levels of smoking, different levels of obesity and differences in the uptake of the use of preventative medication to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The research shows that with better education, usually associated with better income and more resources to draw on to prevent some of these diseases.

The Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study is the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere, involving a quarter of a million people. That is one in every 10 men and women aged 45 and over in NSW.

It is a major national research tool being used by both researchers and policy makers to better understand how Australians are ageing, how they’re using health services, how to prevent and manage ill-health and disability and how this can guide decisions on our health system.

Previous research findings from the study include:

  • Up to two in every three Australian smokers can be expected to die from their habit if they don’t quit
  • Sleeping more than nine hours a night, sitting too much during the day and a lack of exercise is a hazardous combination for health
  • Overweight and obesity account for $1 in every $6 spent in hospitals, costing our hospitals around $4 billion per year
  • Retirement is good for your health, with retirees smoking less, more physically active, sleeping more and sitting less than those in the workforce