Socioeconomic differences in adolescent health getting wider

February 03, 2015

Health inequalities in young people have grown alongside socioeconomic disparities between the rich and poor.

In a paper published Tuesday in The Lancet, an international team of researchers led by McGill University psychologist Frank Elgar said that rising income inequality in Europe and North America coincides with wider disparities in the mental and physical health of 11- to 15-year-olds.

The researchers examined the health of nearly a half-million adolescents in 34 countries between 2002 and 2010 using data from the World Health Organization's Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study. The researchers found that although health improved overall in several domains, it also became more unequal between socioeconomic groups. Trends in body mass, physical activity, and mental and physical health symptoms showed widening gaps between affluent and disadvantaged youths.

This points to a grim outlook for future population health and human capital, the researchers warn.

"Health inequalities in youths shape future inequities in education, employment, adult health, and life expectancy, and should be a focus of health policy," said Dr. Elgar, of McGill's Institute for Health and Social Policy.

The authors suggest that health policy needs to look beyond average levels of population health and disease prevalence to tackle unjust inequities in health across increasingly disparate socioeconomic conditions. For example, a focus on increasing physical activity for adolescents in general could obscure the need to tackle inequality in physical activity, which has also increased.

"Our results also point to policy options for governments that could help reduce health inequalities early in the life course, such as reducing income inequality or investing in the health of disadvantaged youth," added Elgar, an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, whose research centers on social inequalities in health and family influences on child mental health.
-end-
The research was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Canada Research Chairs programme. The HBSC study operates under the auspices of the World Health Organisation and is funded by public sources in each member country

"Socioeconomic inequalities in adolescent health 2002-2010: a time-series analysis of 34 countries participating in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children" by Frank J Elgar (McGill University, Canada), Timo-Kolja Pförtner (University of Cologne, Germany), Irene Moor (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, Bart De Clercq (University of Ghent, Belgium), Gonneke W J M Stevens (Utrecht University, The Netherlands), and Candace Currie (St Andrews University, Scotland) will be published in The Lancet on February 4, 2015.

To contact the researcher directly: frank.elgar@mcgill.ca

McGill University

Related Physical Activity Articles from Brightsurf:

Physical activity in the morning could be most beneficial against cancer
The time of day when we exercise could affect the risk of cancer due to circadian disruption, according to a new study with about 3,000 Spanish people  

Physical activity and sleep in adults with arthritis
A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research has examined patterns of 24-hour physical activity and sleep among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and knee osteoarthritis.

Regular physical activity seems to enhance cognition in children who need it most
Researchers at the Universities of Tsukuba and Kobe re-analyzed data from three experiments that tested whether physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children.

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.

Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.

Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Read More: Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.