Int J Equity Health 12:66.
School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
INTRODUCTION: In adults, multimorbidity is associated with social position. Socially disadvantaged adults typically experience more chronic illness at a younger age than comparable individuals who are more advantaged. The relation between social position and multimorbidity amongst children and adolescents has not been as widely studied and is less clear.
METHODS: The NHS Information Centre (NHS IC) linked participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to the General Practice Research Database (GPRD). Multimorbidity was measured in three different ways: using a count of the number of drugs prescribed, a count of chronic diseases, and a person’s predicted resource use score; the latter two measures were derived using the Johns Hopkins ACG system. A number of different socio-economic position variables measured as part of ALSPAC during pregnancy and early childhood were considered. Ordered logistic and negative binomial regression models were used to investigate associations between socio-economic variables and multimorbidity.
RESULTS: After mutually adjusting for the different markers of socio-economic position, there was evidence, albeit weak, that chronic condition counts among children aged from 0 to 9 years were higher among those whose mothers were less well educated (OR = 0.44; 95% confidence interval 0.18-1.10; p = 0.08). Conversely, children whose mothers were better educated had higher rates of chronic illness between 10 and 18 years (OR = 1.94 ; 95% CI 1.14-3.30). However, living in a more deprived area, as indicated by the Townsend score, was associated with a higher odds of chronic illness between 10 and 18 years (OR for each increasing decile of Townsend score = 1.09; 95% CI 1.00-1.19; p = 0.06).
CONCLUSIONS: We have found some evidence that, in younger children, multimorbidity may be higher amongst children whose parents are less well educated. In older children and adolescents this association is less clear. We have also demonstrated that linkage between prospective observational studies and electronic patient records can provide an effective way of obtaining objectively measured outcome variables.
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