Published Papers - Abstract 14

Grove N, Clavarino A, Ford J, Tooth L, Smith N & Dobson A. Is education the most suitable measure of socioeconomic status in young women? International Journal of Epidemiology, ; :

Background: Health inequalities associated with socioeconomic status (SES) are ubiquitous. But for young people making the life course transition from living with their parents, to further education and commencing employment, and establishing relationships and families of their own, SES is difficult to measure, especially for young women.Methods: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health recruited participants by random sampling from the national population. We used data from 9604 women aged 22-27 years at the second wave survey conducted in 2000. The SES indicators considered were education, occupation, personal and household income, SES of the family of origin, and area of residence. SES group differences were examined for the mental and physical health component scores from the SF36, and the prevalence of self-reported cigarette smoking, overweight or obesity, and physical inactivity.Results: For all the SES indictors there were problems of missing data related to life stage, heterogeneity within groups and difficulties of interpretation with all the SES indictors. Education or occupation showed clearer gradients with health and health-related behaviour the other indicators.Conclusions: While education is unlikely to capture all the complexity of SES for young women, we conclude that it is the most suitable single indicator for epidemiological use because it is the easiest to measure, and it has good construct and concurrent validity.