Economy Influences Diseases

People who suffer from cardiovascular diseases at advanced ages can suspect that the cause lies far away. A recent study finds that individuals born in a recession on average live 15 months shorter than those born under better conditions, and that this difference can be mostly attributed to cardiovascular health risks. Thus, early-life differences in economic household conditions help explaining why some individuals are hit by cardiovascular diseases at high ages and others are not.

The researchers use data on individuals born around 1900. Moreover, the researchers had to resort to twins, for whom death causes have been systematically collected for years. The twin data make it possible to check whether a twin pair's health outcomes are more similar later in life if they were born under adverse conditions than if they were born under good conditions.

It turns out that they are more similar later in life if the starting position was bad. Conversely, if an individual is born under better conditions, then individual-specific factors dominate more. In short, individual-specific qualities come more to fruition if the starting position in life is better.

As to the explanation of why bad economic conditions lead to long-run damage to the cardiovascular system, the researchers point to earlier analyses. These suggest that long-run effects are triggered by the combination of suboptimal nutrition and a suboptimal health infrastructure early in life. Low household income is less harmful if the environment has good health care and hygiene facilities. On top of this, parents who are stressed due to economic hardship may produce offspring with features that make them more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases.

The researchers suggest it may be worthwhile to screen young individuals born under adverse conditions for cardiovascular markers, and to expose those who have unfavourable test values to preventive interventions. Moreover, the results support investments in nutritional quality and health infrastructure in countries with a high degree of deprivation.; Source: Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit