Psychosocial and biological determinants of ill health in relation to deprivation

Deans, Kevin Alexander (2011) Psychosocial and biological determinants of ill health in relation to deprivation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2011deanskphd.pdf] PDF
Download (4MB)
Printed Thesis Information:



Despite public health campaigns and improvements in healthcare, socioeconomic gradients in health and life expectancy persist, and in many cases are becoming more marked – the gradient in coronary heart disease being a prime example. Classic cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. smoking, cholesterol and blood pressure) only partially explain the deprivation effect, and attempts to narrow the health gap by focussing on such risk factors do not appear to be succeeding. There also appear to be socioeconomic differences in uptake of healthy lifestyle advice. The work described in this thesis aimed to expand current understanding of the deprivation-based gap in health and life expectancy, focussing particularly on the socioeconomic gradient in cardiovascular risk.


Using a cross-sectional, population-based study design based in the Greater Glasgow area,
666 participants were selected on the basis of area-level social deprivation (Scottish Index for Multiple Deprivation ranking). The study was designed to include approximately equal numbers from most deprived and least deprived areas; equal numbers of male and female participants and equal numbers of participants from each age group studied (35-44; 45-54 and 55-64 years). Participants completed an extensive questionnaire on health, lifestyle and early life experiences. Anthropometric measures (height, leg length, weight, waist, hip and thigh circumferences) were recorded. Blood pressure, heart rate and parameters of lung function (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second [FEV1] and Forced Vital Capacity [FVC]) were recorded. Psychological assessments (General Health Questionnaire-28, Generalised Self-Efficacy Scale, Sense of Coherence Scale, Beck Hopelessness Scale, Eysenck Personality Scale and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale) and assessments of cognitive function (Auditory Verbal Learning Test, Choice Reaction Time and Stroop Test) were undertaken. Fasting blood samples were obtained for classic and emerging cardiovascular risk factors including lipid profile, glucose, insulin, leptin, adiponectin, C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1, von Willebrand Factor, fibrinogen, D-dimer and tissue plasminogen activator antigen. Carotid ultrasound assessment of intima-media thickness (cIMT), plaque score and arterial stiffness was performed.


Total and low density lipoprotein cholesterol were significantly higher in the least deprived group (both p<0.0001). Triglycerides were higher and high density lipoprotein cholesterol lower in the most deprived group (both p<0.0001). Fasting glucose, insulin and leptin were higher in the most deprived group. C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 were higher in the most deprived group (all p<0.0001). Von Willebrand factor, fibrinogen and D-dimer were higher in the most deprived group. Age- and sex-adjusted cIMT was significantly higher in the most deprived group, but on subgroup analysis this difference was only apparent in the highest age tertile in males (>56.3 years). Plaque score showed a much more highly significant deprivation difference in the group as a whole (p<0.0001). No differences in parameters of arterial stiffness were found between the most deprived and least deprived groups. Neither adjustment for classic nor emerging cardiovascular risk factors, either alone or in combination, abolished the area-level deprivation-based difference in plaque presence or cIMT. Adjustment for early life markers of socioeconomic status in addition to classic cardiovascular risk factors abolished the deprivation-based difference in plaque presence. Further associations between early life factors and health outcomes were noted: lung function (FEV1) and cognitive performance appeared to be influenced by father’s occupation, whether the parents/guardians were owner-occupiers or tenants, and by degree of overcrowding; cIMT was modestly related to father’s occupation and carotid plaque was related strongly to father’s occupation and parental home status. Socioeconomic differences were noted in the impact of personality in determining mental wellbeing, and also in relation to the health behaviours of fruit and vegetable consumption and smoking cessation.


The relationship between social deprivation and health is complex and multifactorial and appears to involve the interplay of early life factors, biological mediators, psychological parameters such as personality and cognitive function, health behaviours and outcomes such as atherosclerosis. Approaches aiming to narrow the deprivation gap in health will need to be designed to take into account this complexity, addressing factors such as early life experiences and personality, as well as the more classically recognised factors such as smoking, cholesterol and blood pressure, if they are to have a chance of succeeding in improving the health of those most in need.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: social deprivation, life expectancy, cardiovascular risk, carotid ultrasound
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Health
Supervisor's Name: Packard, Prof. Chris J.
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Dr Kevin A Deans
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2424
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:55

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year