Journal Article

Social Disadvantage and Social Isolation Are Associated With a Higher Resting Heart Rate: Evidence From The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

May 20, 2016

Journals of Gerontology (Series B): Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Vol. 71, Issue 3, May, 2016

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Objectives. A high resting heart rate (RHR) represents a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and individuals from poorer backgrounds have a higher RHR compared with their more advantaged peers. This study investigates the pathways through which low socioeconomic status (SES) contributes to a higher RHR.

Method. The sample involved data for 4,888 respondents who were participating in the first wave of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. Respondents completed a detailed interview at home and underwent a 5-min baseline electrocardiograph recording as part of a clinic-based health assessment. SES was indexed using household income.

Results. The mean difference in RHR between those at polarized ends of the income distribution was 2.80 beats per minute (bpm) (95% CI = 1.54, 4.06; p < .001), with the magnitude of the socioeconomic differential being greater for men (4.15 bpm; 95% CI = 2.18, 6.12; p < .001) compared with women (1.57 bpm; 95% CI = 0.04, 3.10; p < .05). Psychosocial factors including social network size and loneliness accounted for a sizeable proportion of the socioeconomic differential in RHR, particularly among men.

Discussion. The finding that poorer people have a higher RHR reinforces the need for additional research exploring the pathways through which social inequalities are translated into biological inequalities.