Social Background May Be Linked to Skeletal Problems

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Bone shape did appear to be affected with children from a higher social position more likely to have longer, slender bones which could leave them more susceptible to skeletal problems such as fractures or osteoporosis in later life.

The findings come from a six month study which looked at over 6,700 children recording their height, weight and bone mass, against social information - such as housing tenure, mothers and fathers highest educational qualification and employment.

The study found that by age ten, children whose mothers were educated to degree level were, on average, 1.5cm taller than children whose mothers had no formal qualification. They were also, on average, 1kg lighter.

Children who lived in council owned property were found to be an average of 1.5 cm shorter than children who lived in privately owned housing.

Lead researcher Dr Emma Clark, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow, explained: "Our prime concern in this project was to explore how social inequalities contribute to health inequalities.”

"We wanted to investigate bone mass in children, considering how that may relate to bone mass as they get older. Many people develop skeletal problems later in life, if we can identify contributory factors to this early on, then we should be better equipped to help avoid and manage such problems,” Clark adds.

"Interestingly, although we found no overall relationship between social background and bone mass, there was a marked connection with bone shape, which may have important implications in terms of the risk of developing osteoporotic fractures in later life,” she says.

Clark says that most conditions and diseases have some form of social pattern, with a higher risk of disease in those with lower social position. "This opens the door to a new focus for researchers and sets us a challenge to find out why bones seem to be an exception,” she concludes.; Source: Wellcome Trust