Higher Mortality in Obese, Low Occupational-Class Women

Women from lower classes more likely to be obese, and have higher all-cause mortality

WEDNESDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- For women who have never smoked, low socioeconomic status is linked to a higher prevalence of obesity and higher mortality rates from cardiovascular disease, according to a study published online June 28 in BMJ.

Carole L. Hart, Ph.D., from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, and colleagues assessed the correlation between causes of death, social position, and obesity in 3,613 women who had never smoked. Women were categorized based on occupational class and body mass index. During 28 years of follow-up, all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates by occupational class and body mass index, adjusted for age and other confounders, were the primary outcome measure.

The investigators found that women from lower occupational classes, who had never smoked, had poorer lung function and higher systolic blood pressure than women in higher occupational classes. Overall, 43 percent of the women were overweight, 14 percent moderately obese, and 5 percent were severely obese, with lower occupational classes having higher obesity rates. Compared to current smokers, nonsmokers from all occupational classes had higher obesity rates. Overall mortality was 50 percent, with 51 percent from cardiovascular disease and 27 percent from cancer. Lower classes had higher all-cause mortality rates (relative rate, 1.35), with obesity, systolic blood pressure, and lung function accounting for most of the differences. Severely obese women in the lowest occupational classes had the highest mortality rates.

"Although lifelong smoking is clearly responsible for much higher mortality rates, obesity, and especially severe obesity, is an important contributor to premature mortality," the authors write.

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