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Intelligence and socioeconomic position in childhood in relation to frailty and cumulative allostatic load in later life: The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Epidemiology & Community Health
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2015


Background: Information on childhood determinants of frailty or allostatic load in later life is sparse. We investigated whether lower intelligence and greater socioeconomic disadvantage in childhood increased the risk of frailty and higher allostatic load and explored the mediating roles of adult socioeconomic position, educational attainment and health behaviours.
Methods: Participants were 876 members of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 whose intelligence was assessed at age 11. At age 70, frailty was assessed using the Fried criteria. Measurements were made of fibrinogen, triglyceride, total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, albumin, glycated haemoglobin, C-reactive protein, BMI, and blood pressure from which an allostatic load score was calculated.
Results: In sex-adjusted analyses, lower intelligence and lower social class in childhood were associated with an increased risk of frailty: relative risks (95% confidence intervals) were 1.57 (1.21, 2.03) for a standard deviation decrease in intelligence and 1.48 (1.12, 1.96) for a category decrease in social class. In the fully-adjusted model, both associations ceased to be significant: relative risks were 1.13 (0.83, 1.54) and 1.19 (0.86, 1.61) respectively. Educational attainment had a significant mediating effect. Lower childhood intelligence in childhood, but not social class, was associated with higher allostatic load. The sex-adjusted coefficient for allostatic load for a standard deviation decrease in intelligence was 0.10 (0.07, 0.14). In the fully-adjusted model, this association was attenuated but remained significant (0.05 (0.01, 0.09)).
Conclusion: Further research will need to investigate the mechanisms whereby lower childhood intelligence is linked to higher allostatic load in later life.

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